It surprises me how often I am asked if I am training Wiley. I explain I am vision impaired and he’s a qualified and working Guide Dog but that the training and learning never stops.
Whenever I work with Wiley I am training him in some way. Whether it is reinforcing commands he knows, teaching a new destination or preventing bad habits Wiley is learning something.
Sometimes I ask why the person thinks he is a trainee and not qualified. A little piece of me is concerned he appears inexperienced or poorly behaved.
Most often the person says they just heard me giving him a command, praising his work, offering encouragement or giving him a treat. Obviously they think a qualified dog needs no direction, praise, reinforcement or rewards.
If we are traveling along a familiar route Wiley only needs one or possibly two commands to get me to a destination – which could be up to 3km away. However if we are working somewhere new I give Wiley more frequent commands and regularly reinforce when he is doing the right thing.
I’ve noticed that more people question if Wiley is a ‘real Guide Dog’ when we are in a unfamiliar area.
It can get a little frustrating answering the same question day after day. But as long as I have a minute or two to spare I am happy to stop, chat and educate.