Around the time of the bike accident, Makiko and I started having trouble with doors that opened toward us from the left. We had an issue around that same time, but a few weeks before, when an automatic mechanical door malfunctioned and closed on the back of us and really scared her. Understandably so. So around the time of the bike accident, we started having trouble with left doors that open toward us. Over the holiday break, the problem wasn’t as apparent. I don’t know if it’s because we didn’t do many doors like that or we didn’t work as much as we do normally, or what.. but I didn’t think about it much. Yesterday was our first day back and we started having the problem again. However, Thursday evening we were entering a restaurant and somebody tried to open the door for us but I guess Makiko didn’t notice them or something because they ran into her/she ran into them and it scared her really bad.. again. So understandably so yesterday would be a little tough with left doors that open toward us.
We went on several outings yesterday running errands at work and on one of the outings all of a sudden she wouldn’t turn left. We had just finished relieving, put on her harness and started with a “forward.” We were going forward for awhile and I tried to get her to turn left, but she wouldn’t. We would go forward for a bit more, try to turn left, she wouldn’t. So we turned right all the way around and went left that way. On a later outing we didn’t have this problem so I’m really not sure what that was about, but it was very peculiar.
So I talked to two different guide dog trainers yesterday about this problem. They gave several suggestions. Use high value rewards, such as regular dog treats. Hold open the door, take a step, treat, take a step, treat, until we’re through the door. The problem I see happening with this is that she is going to want to bolt like she does across some thresholds. So the trainer that actually trained us at guide dog school suggested that I just play it cool like it’s not big deal. When she does that bolt, just stop, stay relaxed. One of the things I was doing wrong in this situation was I was correcting her when she did this bolt. I learned that was wrong because she is doing this out of fear, we are pretty sure, and so correcting her when she is afraid isn’t going to do much good right? We have to acknowledge her and her feelings. So when she does the bolt, they just want me to stop and it will give her a little leash correction by itself because when she bolts, but I stay back, she’ll get a little correction. Then, gently I encourage her to come back and show her everything is fine, treat, and then keep going. So we’re definitely going to try that. Another thing that I forgot was the “over here” command. I’m not sure how I forgot about this one.. maybe it’s time to go review some of the written course material from guide dog school. “Over here” is when we’re going through left hand doors like this that open toward us.. we put her on the right side, and heel her through the door. We are definitely going to try this.
Remembering that things are no big deal, that she is fearful of doors and we have to slowly work with her to outweigh her negative thoughts of the door with positive thoughts, and use high value rewards.. we’re going to get through this.
I write all this to show you all, especially guide dog handlers (prospective or current) that we all go through these things. I have seen some handlers post on different forums and seem to be embarrassed about problems. I admit, I am that way sometimes. Makiko is so perfect in my eyes and she does so many wonderful things.. that I don’t want others to get a tarnished view of her. Maybe I’m just over thinking that or being overly sensitive.
This is gonna be a pretty hectic week coming up. In addition to my graduate school courses, I have practicum, work, president of a school organization and vice-president of a state-wide organization for my profession, and then maintaining a good work/life balance and family obligations.
As I posted on my Facebook yesterday.. Ready (maybe).. Set (hopefully), Go (ready or not!). 🙂