Occasionally Wiley will make a mistake when he is guiding me. This is to be expected as no one is perfect all the time. Whenever the situation permits we will re-do whatever he got wrong. It might be a missed curb, brushing me against vegetation on a path, back tracking along a route where he was distracted by something.
As Wiley is such a young dog and relatively new to his job it is important to let him know when he got something wrong and to then give him a chance to get it right. Otherwise he could develop some bad little habits which could impact his work down the track.
Wiley loves earning praise and I use verbal praise, pats and cuddles frequently to let him know he is doing a good job. If he is learning a new destination or does particularly well he will occasionally be given a special food treat.
If he gets something wrong I will give a verbal correction, such as ‘watch this’, ‘focus’ or ‘leave it’. This is quickly followed up by a ‘good boy’ when his mind is back on his job. I never physically correct Wiley – a verbal reprimand is all he needs to understand he was off the mark.
The longer we are together the less frequently I need to re-work something, In fact I don’t think we have reworked something for over a month now. Although there are still days when he seems to be off with the fairies and needs to be reminded to keep his mind on the job. On these days he works better if I tighten up my commands. So instead of asking him to ‘find right’ I will stop him and do a formal right turn. I think these more structured commands help get him back into the right head space.
As a handler I also make mistakes, my body positions might be wrong, the command not given in a timely manner or I might not be clear about what I want Wiley to do. To be honest I think there are a quite a few occasions where I could have given Wiley greater support and direction by using more formal commands. I am sure that if if he could Wiley would give me a verbal correction in these situations 🙂
Working through these issues together really helps us become a better, stronger and more trusting Guide Dog/Handler Team.