[nagdu] Why I decided not to owner train.

Raven Tolliver ravend729 at gmail.com
Mon Sep 22 23:25:33 UTC 2014

I've made the comparison before. Guide dogs in the kennels are like
college kids in dorms. They are in an awkward transition between the
rules and expectations of their parents' house, and learning to
discipline themselves for the rules and expectations of the real
world. All of a sudden, there's no one to provide direction and
guidance on a regular and constant basis, and so yes, their house
manners fall to the wayside. Just think, for 3-6 months, they don't
need to even think about house rules on a regular basis. Occasionally,
they might stay with a trainer for some event, but other than that,
anything goes in the kennels.
Also, I certainly understand separation anxiety. For 3-6 months, those
dogs are almost never left alone. Whether there is a trainer or
another dog/s with them, they are always in company of a pack member
so to speak. And suddenly, they're left alone for a moment, and the
world is over! Too, these dogs have been cared for by a village of
people, handed around like the wine cup at communion. I suspect that
has an impact on them. Or, maybe I'm anthropomorphizing them.

It's my personal opinion that dogs should receive formal guide
training around 18 months, and be turned out around 2 years of age, 23
months at the earliest. We are working with large breeds that
typically mature mentally between 2-3 years of age. This is not to say
that adolescent dogs can't make good guide dogs. But adolescents are
not as reliable or responsible. They are still exploring the world,
and are still in a stage of life where the world revolves around them.
Sometimes, they play by the rules, and other times, they want to make
up their own. Just as human teenagers are, adolescent dogs can be
incredibly inconsistent in their behavior. They can be obedient and
pleasing one day, and stubborn and out of line the next. Some days,
they know exactly what a command means, and others, they act like
they've never heard that word in their lives, and an inexperienced
handler might think their dog is backsliding. As I've said before, it
is very different from an off day with an adult dog. This is a life
stage that goes on for months.
Obviously, every dog's adolescence is different. Some last longer than
others, and some are far more challenging than others.
My problem with schools giving out adolescence is that they seem to
give them to just anyone. In my opinion, a first-time guide dog
handler, or service dog handler of any kind, should not receive an
adolescent dog, especially if they are inexperienced with raising up
dogs. As someone who has not trained dogs before, and chose to attend
a program to receive a well-trained dog, it should not be my job to
continue raising my dog and finish his training. When a school hands
an adolescent dog to someone like me, it is a recipe for added mental
and physical stress and sometimes failure of that matching. On top of
all the stresses that come along with college or any typical
lifestyle, working with an adolescent dog is tremendously stressful.
Many adult dogs bounce back quickly if the handler is consistent with
them. Adolescent dogs need lots of encouragement, praise, discipline,
consistency and hand-holding for a longer period of time. If you're
looking for a dog to really test you, adolescent dogs will do it,
again and again and again, no doubt. The person responsible for that
dog must be able to have patience and be able to work with the dog
without snapping or breaking down. The dog is looking to you for
guidance, so if you don't know what you're doing, you'd better start
learning if you wanna keep that dog. Most people are not expecting to
invest so much into training when they go get a program-trained dog,
but that's exactly what they're being set up for if they get the
adolescent dog and the erratic behavior hits them like a ton of

On 9/22/14, Daryl Marie via nagdu <nagdu at nfbnet.org> wrote:
> Debby,
> Jenny and I have been a team for just under a year. She started training
> with me when she was 18 months old (to the day).
> We did in-home training, and I honestly loved it!  We dealt with transition
> problems as they came up, and if there were good/bad things during the
> evenings while the trainer was gone, I was able to ask questions and deal
> with real behavior issues as they came up, and we were able to change our
> training concerns on the fly.
> We actually extended training an extra week because Jenny had some problems
> with our train system.  With a school-trained dog, I don't know that we
> would have been granted that freedom.  Perhaps she would have been washed
> out or trained with another dog, and then I may have been waiting,yet again,
> for another dog.
> The trainer was very blunt with me and told me that Jenny could go either
> way: she could become a fantastic guide dog, or something would happen to
> her and she would not work well.  if she had exhibited some of these
> behaviors in the beginning of training, she would have washed out; by the
> time she showed them, we'd been training for 2-3 weeks, we had bonded...
> while the trainer had concerns, I was determined to make it work, and she
> was willing to give it everything we both had... Thankfully, with a lot of
> work, the former seems to be what's bearing out with jenny.
> Daryl
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: debby phillips via nagdu <nagdu at nfbnet.org>
> To: Raven Tolliver <ravend729 at gmail.com>, NAGDU Mailing List, the National
> Association of Guide Dog Users <nagdu at nfbnet.org>, singingmywayin at gmail.com,
> nagdu at nfbnet.org
> Sent: Mon, 22 Sep 2014 07:47:05 -0600 (MDT)
> Subject: Re: [nagdu] Why I decided not to owner train.
> Hey, I'm not saying that people shouldn't owner train if they can
> and want to.  And some of the things you say about dogs from
> schools is very true.  I don't get the getting into garbage,
> shredding stuff, not being able to be by themselves without
> making a fuss.  Between the time they go from their puppy raisers
> and finish training as guides, they seem to lose some of their
> house manners.  I will say though that Neena is improving.  She
> still shreds stuff, especially paper.  But it is becoming less
> and less, (though I doubt she'll totally ever stop).  As far as
> length of training, Seeing Eye made the change from three months
> to four quite some time ago.  I worry about the shortening of
> class times, even though it isn't easy to be away from home.  You
> made a comment about adolescent dogs.  I'm just curious about
> what age you think dogs should be trained and then turned over to
> us.  I know that there are dogs out there that are 16 months old,
> and to me that seems awfully young.  Neena will turn two in
> November.
> I know that I don't have the patience, time, and all to train my
> own dog.  I'm grateful that I don't have to.  But I am curious
> about the cost of having a private trainer.  And where do you
> find trainers who know about guide dog training? Also, have any
> of you had dogs from a program that does home training rather
> than going away somewhere else? How did that work? Mind you, I'm
> hoping that Neena will be with me for the next ten years, so I'm
> not planning on doing anything other than making us the best team
> we can be.    Peace,    Debby and Neena
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