Wiley and I have been together around nine months now. During that time our bond has become incredibly strong. We are much more in sync now than when we started and many of our regular routes have become so familiar that Wiley only needs one command to get me there.
We have developed a great routine. I can tell which situations are likely to be a little distracting and the best way to help him maintain his focus. I know how to reward and praise him to keep him motivated and loving his work.
I know Wiley’s strengths and weaknesses, when I should give him support and when I need to let him use his initiative. My hand signals have become a lot more subtle and he is incredibly adept at reading my body language.
We have caught countless buses, walked many kilometers, given lots of talks, had our fair share of odd encounters, explored lots of new and interesting places, been filmed, interviewed and photographed.
Because of Wiley my world has completely changed, I have gone from never wanting to leave the house to embracing each and every opportunity and adventure that comes my way. I now have a part time job which I love.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing, there have been days when Wiley’s work was not as good as I expected and I have made my share of handler blunders. Sometimes you think you are doing everything wrong, but then you will have a fabulous day and know you are actually doing an awful lot right.
Working through these periods and learning from them is all part of building understanding and trust between the handler and their dog.
The first few months working together are really important in lying down a solid foundation. I carefully plan each weeks calendar so that there is a good mix of familiar routes and new challenges. I make sure we work at least six days a week, varying location, time, destinations etc.
There have been a couple of times when off lead dogs have created dangerous situations. I am very fortunate that these encounters have not created a dog distraction problem for Wiley.
Over the last nine months we have had a couple of follow ups with a Guide Dog instructor. They have observed Wiley and I working to make sure we are a safe and effective team. It is great being able to have a chat and talk through any issues or concerns. If a problem is going to develop it is likely to happen in the first 12 months. I find it very reassuring knowing I have access to this ongoing support whenever I need it for as long as Wiley and I are working together.