by Shannon Garner
The coronavirus has affected our lives tremendously in a short period of time. Having a guide dog and being stuck in the house can be mentally and physically draining for you and your furry companion. Tracker and I have come up with a few fun things to do to keep the boredom and the pounds away, and we would like to share these things with you.
Tag is a game that we have all played before. Tracker and I do it a bit differently by adding a Nylabone into the mix. I give the bone to Tracker and start chasing him around. If I touch him, he stops and drops the bone and I pick it up. If he catches me then we repeat the process until Tracker gets tired. It’s safe to say that Tracker spends the most time with the bone, but we both get a good workout from running around.
How about teaching your puppy new tricks? When teaching your guide dog different tricks, the best way to do it is by breaking out that old fashioned clicker. The clicker produces a quick snapping sound, and that indicates to your dog that he or she has done something right. Also when your dog hears that sound, it alerts them to the fact that they are about to receive a nice treat. During traditional guide dog raising and training, it is prohibited to teach them certain things. You are not supposed to teach them things such as shaking hands, rolling over, or how to fetch you a cold drink from the refrigerator. However, once you and your guide have graduated, feel free to show them new stuff. I’ve taught Tracker words such as “upstairs”, “down stairs”, and “bedtime”; and plan on teaching him a lot more. His puppy raiser has already accidently taught him how to shake hands, so I’m trying to teach him how to roll over. Unfortunately, I’ve been unsuccessful so far and Tracker usually looks at me like I’ve lost my mind.
It is always a good time to touch up on your dog’s training. While you’re at home you can practice many commands with your dog. Tracker and I work a lot on recalling. Recalling is when I take Tracker to another room and make him sit and stay. I then walk away to another location in the house and call him to me. If he comes to me, I reward him with a treat, and repeat the process. We also work on going up and down stairs. When coming down, your guide is supposed to stop at the very top step, so you can find out where the stairs begin. You then give the forward command to let them know that you’re ready to continue, and once you reach the bottom, your guide will stop to indicate the end of the steps. When going up the stairs, your guide is supposed to put his front paws on the first step, and wait for you to find it. Once you give the forward command, you and your guide will travel to the top of the steps, where your guide will put their paws on the last step to let you know that is the last one. There are many things that you can work on with your guide; so as long as you keep the treats and praise flowing, your guide should not get bored.
Grooming and massaging are very important parts of taking care of your guide dog. Since most of us have extra time due to Covid-19, why not dedicate some of it to giving your puppy a little TLC? Tracker is a princess, and yes, I mean princess. He doesn’t mind getting his ears cleaned, teeth brushed, fur brushed, or his nails clipped. He loves getting baths, and being fitted with a fresh new bandanna. He never gives me trouble when it comes to grooming, because thankfully he likes to stay clean. In addition to that, he loves getting a nice massage. Sometimes, I’ll grab a good audio book, grab Tracker, sit on the floor; and just give him a good massage while I’m listening to my book. This not only allows me to help him relax, but it provides me the chance to check him over for any bumps, scratches, or bruising.
These are just a few things that you can do with your guide. Although we are still allowed to take walks as long as we are practicing social distancing, it’s always great to switch up activities to keep your puppy interested. If you have any ideas or suggestions, feel free to reach out to the team via our contact form! Tracker and I are always looking for new exercises to try.