Thursday, June 4, 2009

Following the Instructor, Part 1

By Joanne Ritter

Recently, I had the good fortune to follow our instructors on training routes as they prepared some of our dogs to become Guide Dogs for people who are blind. As the sun beamed its morning light, one by one the instructors led them through the kennel gate, readying them for the day's training.

The dogs are so beautiful to watch, and I often feel we are spoiled by the stellar behavior -- a product of good breeding, early and extensive socialization, good training patterns, attention and love. We expect a lot from them, and they deliver. A simple walk to the curb demonstrates so much. There is no yanking or pulling; they're calm, not barking. And yet they are happy--tails wagging in eager anticipation.

Some are led to a fenced-in yard to romp gleefully. Others are put through their obedience paces. Once in awhile, I hear the crisp snap of a clicker followed by the positive reinforcement of a food reward for a task well done.

Instructor walks with a black Lab toward a training van
The dogs are then loaded safely into crates within the training vans. Some busily gnaw on Nylabones as they wait to be transported to downtown training areas.

In our next episode, I'll be following an instructor and dog in the final stages of training in downtown San Francisco. Stay tuned!

Do you have a pet dog? Does your dog walk calmly at your side? How do you teach your dog not to pull you down the street? Are you consistent as your dog's trainer? What tips would you like to share with other readers of this blog?
6:45 minute video.

Read more in the second installment of this story.


  1. Great post! I am really looking forward to Part 2! =]

  2. Check out Delta Society ( and how they are dedicated to improving human health through therapy and service animals. You could join a Pet Partners team with Pilaf!

  3. great entry. Thank you for showing us how much fun our pups have once they go back for formal training!

  4. Hi I can't wait for part 2! I can't wait to read something like, "one of our puppies has just finished training and is now about to be handed over to a blind person!"

  5. That was a great post! I can't wait for part 2!

  6. Great video!! Love seeing our babies in training. Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to part 2!

  7. Thanks for sharing these. Having sent our first puppy Melissa back to campus in February, it is so great to see what she has been doing.

  8. Thank you to all of you for all you do.. You change the world for so many.