[nagdu] Use of Canes while at Guide Dog Training Programs; was: RE: The Differences in Dogs and Canes

Tracy Carcione carcione at access.net
Mon Jul 1 14:06:55 UTC 2013

Hi Ann.
I recently bought a short, light ID cane from Independent Living Aids. 
It's small enough to fit in a pocket or purse easily.  It's only about
waist-high when extended, but will do for checking things while working
the dog, or to walk in case of a real emergency.

When I was at TSE in 2006, I used my cane until we got the dogs.  I wanted
to use it after that to go to the relieving area, but a trainer yelled at
I think I'd agree with your brother, and want to use a cane in the hotel
until the dog started working in the building.  Hotels are full of stuff
in the halls, for one thing, like maids' carts and such.

Tangentially, a friend of mine visited someone in class at the hotel.  He
really liked that there were other people in the hotel, not just TSE
students and staff, and that students could go hang out at the hotel
restaurant or bar or terrace after the workday was over.  I'd like that,
too.  It can be stressful, being cooped up with the same people for weeks.
I was envious of Gary, being able to walk down to the local bar after
class at the school in Canada.

> Hi, All,
> It is my understanding that The Seeing Eye traditionally used to insist
> that
> people go without their canes from the time they arrived at the school for
> class.  I think the theory was that it was supposed to prepare you
> psychologically for beginning your partnership with the guide dog, or
> something like that.  It was supposed to point up the contrast between
> feeling dependent and fearful when traveling without any mobility aid, and
> the new feeling of freedom and grace that came with picking up the guide
> harness for the first time.  I think they still assume or strongly urge
> that
> people give up their canes when they come into class.  Many of us have
> always thought that this is an unwise policy, especially when you have 20
> or
> more blind people walking through the halls and rooms of the facility in
> the
> days before people get their dogs and in the days when you are heeling the
> dog and not yet working them within the building.  But I suppose the worst
> case scenario could be that there could be a good train wreck with
> multiple
> canes, people, and leashed dogs all getting tangled up!
> Recently, my brother was in class at the Seeing Eye.  This was during the
> renovation of the residence building, and so the students were housed in a
> local hotel.  My brother insisted that he was not going to walk through
> this
> unfamiliar environment without his cane and with a new, young, large,
> unharnessed dog in tow, especially when, unlike the main residence
> building,
> here there would not be any instructors strategically positioned along the
> routes between the dining room and park area and the bedrooms, to help
> avert
> any impending mishaps.  The instructor told him that they thought it did
> not
> look dignified for the guide dog users to be using canes to find their way
> around.  My brother told the instructor that it looked far less dignified
> for the blind people to be bumping into walls and other objects, falling
> down stairs, etc.  It almost came to a showdown where he was either going
> to
> go without a cane or go home without getting a dog at all.  But finally
> they
> relented and gave him a short, thin, identification cane to use until it
> was
> permitted to work the dog in the building.  But I think he was the only
> student who insisted on having a cane to use.
> When his class was over, he asked the brand of the cane he had borrowed,
> because he thought he might want to get one to keep in his pack just in
> case
> of need.  They said it had been around for so long that the brand name was
> unreadable and they had no records of where it came from.  Evidently, no
> one
> else had ever insisted on using a cane, so they gave him that one to keep.
> They absolutely refused to let him use the regular cane he came to the
> school with.  I guess they were afraid it would hurt or frighten the dog
> and
> cause it to lose confidence.  Seems like nonsense to me, but they're the
> experts, right?
> I know that when I was at the Seeing Eye in the early 1990's, when we were
> doing "country work", (walking along roads without sidewalks),  we were
> taught to use our left foot to step sideways behind the dog to check on
> how
> close or far away we were from the edge of the roadway.  Now I hear that
> some programs, perhaps even TSE?, are having the students check with their
> canes either behind or in front of the dog to see how far from the road's
> edge they are.
> (Is the freedom to use a cane at the guide dog programs before or even
> after
> receiving the guide dog one of the items listed in the Guide Dog Users
> Bill
> of Rights?  I don't remember reading that.  If it's not there, perhaps it
> should be added.)  It would be interesting to hear the various guide dog
> schools' policies on the use of canes by guide dog handlers, both when
> they
> are in class and when at home working with their guide dogs.
> Best,
> Ann
> -----Original Message-----
> From: nagdu [mailto:nagdu-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Nicole
> Torcolini
> Sent: Saturday, June 29, 2013 11:22 AM
> To: 'NAGDU Mailing List, the National Association of Guide Dog Users'
> Subject: Re: [nagdu] The Differences in Dogs and Canes
> Yikes, someone telling you to go without a mobility aide, is that what I
> am
> understanding? I certainly move around with neither dog nor cane in
> certain
> areas, but they are areas that I know well. When I received Lexia, we
> sometimes heeled our dogs when moving around the building. At these times,
> we used our canes. Somehow, I never got frustrated with the
> why-is-my-dog-stopping thing, but that is different for everyone. Maybe
> because I had talked to several people about using a guide dog before
> getting one, but that is beside the point. If having the cane around to
> help
> problem solve works well for someone, especially in the beginning, that
> there is no reason that that should not be around.
> When learning new areas, I usually have a sighted person to help me, so I
> don't use my cane that much, but, if I did not have sighted assistance , I
> most certainly would use my cane in those situations, especially if it
> included finding an object that the dog usually regards as an obstacle.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: nagdu [mailto:nagdu-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Raven Tolliver
> Sent: Friday, June 28, 2013 11:46 PM
> To: nagdu
> Subject: Re: [nagdu] The Differences in Dogs and Canes
> Carol,
> Yes, it is recommended to use your cane for patterning your dog and
> familiarizing them to routes and landmarks.
> Personally, I did this a lot when I returned to college with my dog.
> Of course, I had massive trust issues.
> The following feelings and statements are about the particular guide dog
> program I attended. I have not extensively discussed multiple aspects of
> other programs, so I will not make claims and comments out of ignorance.
> During my class at my program, we were advised on the first night to start
> walking around without our canes. I brushed this off and forgot all about
> it, till I was reminded the next afternoon, since that was the day before
> we
> would receive our dogs. Personally, I felt naked.
> All my life, I considered my cane as a part of my body. Since I was
> three-years-old, I had been using a cane. I did not use it everywhere all
> of
> the time, but to familiarize myself with any location, I definitely used
> my
> cane at first. I still feel like the program was faulty in that aspect.
> These are guide dog instructors, not mobility instructors. They obviously
> were not familiar with what the cane means, what it does, and the
> relationship between it and its users.
> Maybe everyone wasn't so hard pressed to let theirs go, but I was while I
> was in class, and for about the next three months after I left school.
> What I think they should do is have the student keep their cane with them
> during the first week with their dog. The students shouldn't use the cane
> because that would interfere with the dog; but when a hiccup concerning
> making a turn or obstacle clearance occurs, the student could use the cane
> to find out what is happening. For instance, I was on a walk at the
> school,
> proceeding down the sidewalk, and my dog started moving over to the right.
> Unfamiliar with moving laterally with my dog, I immediately stopped, then
> told him forward. Again, he started curving right. I was perplexed by this
> and just stood there and asked my instructor what was going on. She
> informed
> me that the dog was clearing the side of an outdoor enclosure, and that I
> needed to follow him. Okay, that's cool, but it would have been nice to
> have
> used my cane to figure out what in the blazes my dog was doing. Also, for
> curbs, construction barrels, and so on, it would have been nice to use my
> cane first, then reach out or forward with my right arm or one of my feet
> to
> realize that I can gather the same information using a different method.
> During this incident with the outdoor enclosure, I was exposed to my dog's
> sassiness in harness. If I wouldn't allow him to clear an obstacle, he
> would
> just stop, back up, and let out a throaty sigh as if to say: "Okay Lady,
> are
> you gonna let me do my job, or are you the guide for this team?" This
> occurred more than I would like to say after I returned to my college
> campus. I knew where everything was, and he had to figure it out, and I
> had
> to somehow, teach him all of it and still allow him to guide me. This was
> a
> great challenge. There were angled sidewalks, forked sidewalks, places
> where
> we had to walk in the road and follow angled paths, and plazas to cross.
> Whenever turning was possible, there were always three or four options,
> and
> my dog always thought turning right was the correct path. It did not
> matter
> if I said "forward" or "left," the path off to the right was his choice.
> Why
> was he so stubborn? Back at school, things had never been this hard or
> challenging.
> My mobility instructor was extremely understanding. She had so much
> experience and had seen dozens of people through their transitions from
> being cane users to guide dog travelers. She already  knew of my trust
> issues before I opened my mouth or walked with my dog under her watchful
> eye. She encouraged me to carry my cane, but not use it on our first walk.
> That was fine; the route was simple. But as the routes had more spins
> thrown
> in, I became more and more frustrated. I resorted to pulling out my cane
> and
> heeling for some of the routes, tapping landmarks and teaching him the way
> with my cane. My instructor then advised me to start using my clicker,
> which
> by the way, I think we only spent about two or three days on back at the
> school. That was not long enough for it to stand out in the flurry of
> things
> I had learned.
> The clicker worked like a magic wand. He got excited when he saw it.
> When he did things correctly and got a click and reward, he was pleased
> and
> eager to do what I commanded. It made targeting and patterning easier.
> I think if my guide dog program had weaned students off the cane, rather
> than telling us to just walk around without it, this trust thing might not
> have been so bad. That's questionable, especially considering I was
> completely unfamiliar and inexperienced with communicating with dogs. It
> also would have been nice if the school had taken the students to a
> college
> campus to get the experience of traveling with a guide dog in such an
> area.
> Okay, done rambling for now. I just thought it would be somewhat valuable
> to
> share my experiences and get those things off my chest.
> Phew!
> --
> Raven
> Original Message:
> Sent: Fri, 28 Jun 2013 05:54:10 -0800
> From: Carol Osmar <osmarc at sbcglobal.net>
> To: "NAGDU Mailing List,        the National Association of Guide Dog
> Users"
>         <nagdu at nfbnet.org>
> Subject: Re: [nagdu] [nard] The Differences in Dogs and Canes
> As a potential dog user, I have a question.  Is it ever recommended to use
> a
> cane while with your dog to locate the things you mentioned, or would that
> somehow undermine the trusting partnership you have with your dog?
> Carol
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