During their training a Guide Dog learns a number of commands. The handler is taught them as part of team training. I needed to know what each command means, when to use them and what verbal, visual and body position signals go together.
At first it required an awful lot of concentration to bring verbal commands, hand signals and body position altogether but over the last few months it has started to feel more natural. In particular I can feel my feet move instinctively in relation to the feel of the harness handle in my fingers which tells me Wiley’s body position.
Along with the standard formal ones, Wiley and I have developed our own set of informal commands. For example he knows when I say OK, it means get ready to leave. ‘Keep going’ means keep doing what you are doing (pace, direction etc), and ‘Round you Come’ means come and stand in the guiding position on my left hand side.
I didn’t set out to teach these as commands to Wiley, it is just something that I naturally said whenever I wanted him to do something and over time the words took on meaning. It will be interesting to see how many more commands we create together over the coming years.