Not my favourite set of activities today! We Guide Dogs all hate this bit of training our hoomans. It is quite hard work and somewhat stressful, but it has to be done! It’s not a problem for us, we have been trained and drilled and practiced in it all sooooooo much that we can almost do it in our snoozetime. It is the hoomans that have problems with it, and Ma was no exception today. In fact she made a complete goofup (I don’t think that was the term she woofed at the time!) of one of the manoeuvres.
Today was all about the kinds of obstacles and hazards that we might encounter in our working life: Obstacles being things that block the pawment, such as parked vroomers, bins, cages around holes in the ground….. anything that makes the way too narrow or totally blocked so we can’t get through together. Hazards are when vroomers come at us that our hoomans hadn’t heard coming, or that come unexpectedly around the corner. Both of these situations involve us having to break our rules in order to do our job.
The obstacles today started off as the ones that we trainee dogs are bored to bits of working around; they are just poles that the GDMIs put up as barriers on the pawment. We arrived in a quiet street in GDMI’s vroomer, where I was riding in the front between Ma’s backpaws. I had to stay there and wait while GDMI went and set up her poles along the way, then she came back and pretended to be me! She held my harness in her frontpaw and guided Ma herself using it. There was a lot of hoomanwoofing going on so I guess she was yipping instructions to Ma all the while. I just sat and watched. It was quite amusing!
Then came my turn: I got out of the vroomer and my harness was put into its rightful place: on ME! Then Ma asked me to ‘forward’ along the pawment. Off we trotted and soon came to the first barrier. I slowed down and took Ma to the kerb on our right side, and sat down. She then turned her backpaws and her body to face toward the way we were supposed to be going (the way that was blocked by the poles), she then gave me the ‘forward’ command, and, as soon as we started moving, added ‘steady…keep over …over to the kerb’ and so I took her out into the road, around the obstacle and back safely onto the pawment, and so on down to the next one. This was a straightforward repeat, but the third one was a tad more challenging. This one was right next to a parked vroomer, so there was no room to just go around the barrier, we had to go right out and around the vroomer too. That was all done with no problem.
Then we turned around to do it all the other way. This meant that we had to go left into the road, so a slightly different set of commands. Plus, this time, the first barrier required an about turn, because, being right by the parked vroomer, we were kind of trapped in a dead end. So as we got to the obstacle, I had to stop, then turn Ma around in a clockwise turn, then take her to the kerb at the back of the vroomer. Then she had to turn her backpaws and body slightly away from me and ask me to ‘Forward’ into the road, followed by ‘Steady, Keep in…In to the kerb’. Then, just as we were approaching the second barrier, another vroomer came and parked right by that one, so we had to do the extra difficult challenge all over again! By the time we got to the last one (which had been the first one on the way down the hill), I was a bit miffed with it all, so I tried to get away with not doing it properly. I didn’t get away with it though! I had to twirl around with Ma and go back to do it again! Boo! We did it though, then set off on a nice bit of a workies – just normal walking practice with lots of kerbs and indents again.
Part of this workies practice took us into something called the postoffice. This seemed like a good place for a lie down! Well, I wouldn’t waste the opportunity offered by waiting our turn! Job done, we then headed off to another lie down; most welcome after that offkerb hard work! This time was much more comfy as it was on floor-fur and it lasted a bit longer too. It seemed Ma needed to woof to the nice shehooman in there about someone called Benny Fits. I got the impression that the woofing wasn’t very informative, but the tummytickles were nice! I rolled over to expose my bestest bits for hooman pawsticks to get at.
After all that, we got back to the vroomer and rode back to chuggyboathome for a well earned rest.
I got woken up by GDMI appearing again and so off we set again. This time, we went to a different set of quiet streets and apparently we got there too quick in hooman terms. It was not a moment too soon in my opinion though because, to my absolute joy, we went into a greenspace! And, after the usual ritual of ‘Wait’….harness off….’Sit. Down. Upsit’ munchie …..YESSSSS! I got a little freerun! It was only little so I made the most of it and showed Ma how I can zoom about. It only lasted long enough for one quick whizz around but it was enough to expel a little pent up tension… and….well….something else that a dog needs to expel too! Aaaaah! That was better!
Then it was back into harness and off to work again. This time it was traffic hazards. This is one of the hardest things we Guide Dogs have to do: We have to be disobedient! We have to refuse to follow our hooman’s instructions! After all the training to be totally obedient, this is a tough exercise! It seems that hoomans find it tough too, but it is all for good reason.
This is where we work to a kerb and sit as normal, then hooman does the usual fancy backpaw manoeuvres to get ready to cross the road. Hooman does the listening for vroomers and thinks it is safe to cross, so gives the ‘Forward’ command. However, the far superior doggy hearing detects a vroomer approaching and so the command has to be ignored and we stay put on the kerb. The first time we did this today, I stayed put on the kerb but Ma lost the plot and she stepped off the kerb! Doh! She realised straightaway that she had goofed it and gave me lots of praise and fuss for being a good boy. It all ended with her and GDMI both hahahaing. It all went well after that though. I probably should explain that this is not done in training with real normal vroomer-drivers. It is a vroomer I know – driven by another GDMI (I did get a little bit excited and hopeful when I spotted her). The first few goes today were called ‘near traffic’. This is where the vroomer comes from the right, so on the side of the road nearest to us. Then we moved on to do some where the vroomer comes across the pawment right in front of us, going to a vroomerkennelplace. After a couple of those, we did some ‘far traffic’ practice, where the vroomer comes from the left on the far side of the road. The first time of doing this, I stopped in the middle of the road and sat down. Ma and Jenna were pleased with me for this. Then, when the vroomer moved on, we carried on ‘forward’ to the kerb and onwards to the next corner. The next couple of these, I stayed firmly planted on the kerb and refused the ‘forward’ command altogether. I got super megapraise and fusses for that!
After all that, I was glad of a bit of a workies just on straightforward street work again. Then a very brief snooze in the vroomer again. It was only a very brief snooze though, because GDMI suddenly stopped and chucked Ma and me out! Ma harnessed me up and we had to workies on our own for the first time. It was not a long workies, but it was a good one! We had to go around a double barrier and along a twitten way that we have done before, but only ever with GDMI . I looked back several times to check for her but she wasn’t there! It was totally down to me to get Ma home! I thought I might get away with a few sneaky sniffs and snaffles without GDMI watching but I didn’t! Ma was far too tuned in to my efforts. Boo! I didn’t even get to streetclean after the hehooman we were following who was munching and dropping some very tempting yellow sticks. Ma just kept me moving ‘straight on’ with a few firm ‘NO’ commands dotted in when I really tried to get to my snacks. Eventually the potential supply ran out and we settled into the workies and got all the way through the twitten, up the steep slope and to the roadside that goes over the water-road where chuggyboats go, then a ‘Find right’ took us down the path to chuggyboathome. There we found GDMI sitting on a bench. She seemed very pleased with us! Ma was most definitely very happy and super pleased with me! After GDMI left us, I got to water the green-floor-fur before going aboard chuggyboathome and getting a delicious crunchy orange stick!