So, what can I tell you about guide dog school? Well, in one word, it is INTENSE! We're up early, toileting the dogs, having breakfast, and then it's straight into training. We drive out to a suburban street (so far it's been in North Balwyn), and practice command such as 'forward', 'stop', 'stay', 'straight on', 'left', and 'right'. Each command is accompanied by physical signals, many of which involve co-ordinating hands and feet. It's like learning to dance.
Yesterday, being a 43 degree (celsius) day, meant that we were up and out of the centre by 7am - yesterday what a long day! We had to stop our walks by midday, so as not to distress the dogs.
Harlem is pretty good at following commands, I'd stay the only area we really need to work on is getting him down from a seated position to an alert laying position - and getting him to stay there. He does like to pop up a lot. We've tried various things, voice, hand signals, or a combination of both. We've tried a leash check under his chin (this involves sort of jiggling the leash in a downward motion). Sometimes, it works if I look deep into his eyes and say 'down' in a low, deep voice. So far though, the best method is just to get him to sit and leave him and after a minute or so he lays himself down, LOL.
Getting him under a chair can be a challenge. Ideally, I'd like to be able to get him to put himself under the chair nose first, so I down have to slide him under it bum first myself. There are two reasons for this: sliding is damn near impossible on carpet, and well, to people who don't know any different, it can look as if I'm pushing him under my chair. The reason guide dogs have to learn to sit under chairs is so they don't trip up people in cafes, restaurants, or on public transport. It is also to protect they tails and paws from being trampled.
Let's talk about hair for a moment. Not my hair, but rather Harlem's hair. It is EVERYWHERE! I mean, when I play with him, he does circles or figure eights up against my legs (there is no where here for more exuberant play), and afterwards my skirt or pants look like they're made from white mohair! I can brush and brush and brush him and take handfuls of hair out of the brush seemingly endlessly! We are so going to need a leather couch!
I have so much to learn yet, I still can't see how I'm going to learn it all by the end of the three weeks here and one week in domiciliary training, but let's see how it goes...