Most of my posts are sharing the difference working with a Guide Dog has made for me. Hands down, it has been amazing, positive and dare I say life-changing. However, I wanted to express that there can be less than optimal times too.
When we work as a team, there is cohesiveness. We both read each other and work as one. If one of us isn’t at our best, sometimes the teamwork falters slightly.
Today our day started as usual until we left the house. At the bottom of my stairs, we turn right to go to work and left to go to our local Cafe, which is one of Guide Dog Sienna’s favourite places as there are children to watch, other dogs to meet and potentially crumbs under the table that we sit at that I may not notice.
I told Sienna to turn right at the bottom of the stairs. She stood and looked at me, then pulled left. I asked again and she looked at me, then pulled left and then on the third time, I used a deep no-nonsense voice that usually works and she sat and looked at me and looked left. As if to say no, mum, I don’t want to go to work.
I decided to go left to get her moving and redirect her up the road toward work instead of down the road, which is usually going to our local Cafe. As soon as we turned left, Sienna had a spring in her step and almost cantered with her head held high until we turned right at the bottom of the driveway. She then slowed down and finally stopped moving after about 10 m. I knew she didn’t need to go to the bathroom as she had been earlier, so I coaxed her along.
Sienna hadn’t done a go slow for quite some time but used to do it when we were going home and training as she wanted to stay out and about. We walked slowly. Instead of her usual level of concentration, she was distracted by many smells and sounds. She stopped sniffing the crossing poles and grass verge at any opportunity. The typical snap of her lead and low voice didn’t seem to work.
Sienna is a young dog who turns two in September this year, so I was expecting her to be a little distractible, but this was much more than normal.
Finally, I thought all was good until we were halfway across a road and she stopped, not moving forward. There were no dangers, so I told her to go forward again. She stood rooted to the spot. Because we were at a four-way intersection of a busy road, safety comes first, so I dropped the handle and asked her to heel to get off the road. No movement, so I ended up pulling her off the road with her lead (which has not happened since the beginning of our training).
I wondered if something was wrong with her or if she was hurt. So I stopped on the opposite side of the road but couldn’t find anything. She followed basic commands like sitting and I couldn’t feel any injury. What perked her up was getting the treats out of my bag pocket and carrying them in my hand so she could see them as we walked. We got to the bus stop without incident.
On the bus, Sienna usually responds well to the under command and sits under my seat by backing in. Today, she lunged head first under the seat (there may have been food) when I said under and proceeded to back out and sit beside me in the bus aisle. I physically moved her to under my seat, giving her praise for staying there for the rest of the trip.
We got off the bus as usual. However, Sienna didn’t take her typical path and was distracted, wagging her tail and wanting to interact with a student. I refocused her by using obedience and treats, asking her to go forward where she watched students and led me straight into an obstacle.
At this point, we did some corrections and practice with her watching the object she didn’t avoid. I went and got coffee and headed to the office. I wonder if she had enough exercise, but we walk about 3 to 6 km a day, so she certainly does. I wondered yesterday if she was a little bored at work as she watched people go past and started to whine when one of her favourite people (Rachael) went past. Sienna certainly has toys, a bed and bones at work and we have breaks.
At about 1500 hrs today, Sienna was restless; she was trying to get my attention while I worked. Doing the perfect sit, vocalising and making dog noises picking up her toy and bringing it closer. I was ignoring her, so she barked. I have heard her bark five times (two of which were playing with other dogs she met at the beach). This isn’t the behaviour I want to reinforce at work, so I told her no and ignored her. She eventually settled and went back to bed.
After 1600 hrs, she got restless again, which is semi-normal for her. If we don’t leave work by 1700 hrs, she seems very hungry and encourages me to leave work for the day. This is turning out to be q good thing as I had a propensity to keep working and go home about 2000 hrs. Now, if I know I need to stay late, I take her food to work, but this wasn’t a planned day to work late, so we needed to leave.
For now, I am going to consider today a one-off and if she doesn’t settle call our instructor for advice. However, on reflection today I realised Sienna is not yet two so is still a puppy really. In saying that though, she does need manners when at work with me though.
My next Adventures of a Guide Dog Sienna will be more positive and focus on the positive changes from working with a Guide Dog that significantly outweigh our off days.