Saturday, October 15, 2011

No More (pre-) Harness Training

Today Shirley and I went to our training, which mainly focused on preparing for our 10-14 month evaluation. I found out what happened at the last meeting, which was about the guide dogs will not be wearing the harnesses outside the meetings from now on. Talk about a rude awakening only because I had a great story to tell ! Shirley loves the harness, and when we go out on our outings people seem to be more respectful of  Shirley's space , compared to the vest. For example, while we at St.Augustine my parents and I noticed the different attitudes of people. When she wore the harness people would give her space and parents would control their children a little more. It is like Shirley almost became invisible in the crowd, which is a good thing for her. With the vest it is a different story. She becomes a lot more noticeable and little kids try to pet her or say "Look at the puppy!" I just think that Shirley does not need that much attention at this stage of the training. Shirley is a petite dog and the vest makes her look so much younger than she  really is.

When I started working with Shirley I always looked forward to getting her to the stage of wearing the harness and it was refreshing to get the harness we both seemed to stand a little taller . I just think one incidence should not ruin  the time, respect. and dedication  for all. There will always be a bad apple or a misunderstood situation with the vest or harness; This doesn't seem to be the right solution, and one episode should not change the whole program. Hopefully, Southeastern Guide Dogs will soon review their decision on  this policy. I train Shirley through collar and leash and exposes  so harness or vest will not change that.

Note: I would love feedback and information on this.


  1. When I first started raising we only had puppy coats. It wasn’t until my 3rd puppy was getting ready to go back that they tried several puppy groups working on wearing the harness at meetings. I guess it was my 5th puppy that we were allowed to take the harness home and work on it in the neighborhood. I never took my puppy in harness out into public outside of meetings. We worked on wearing the harness on walks in the neighborhood, but that was it. One of the reasons I think it is a good idea to keep it only at meetings is because every puppy is different and every puppy show stress in different ways. Sometimes you might not even notice that you puppy is having problems and being at meeting you have more people who are watching to make sure that you puppy is ok wearing it. If you are out by yourself and you run into something that your puppy doesn’t like at all and has a negative reaction to it, that negative reaction can carry over to the harness and they can develop a dislike of it.

    After raising several puppies you develop an eye of who is going to come and try and pet you puppy. You have to be able to see it, and explain nicely that your dog is working right now and can’t be petted. It is a good experience for your puppy as well because they are working on ignoring people, which you can never have too much practice. Part of our job as a puppy raiser is educating the public and that means explaining why it is important not to pet our puppies when they are in coat. I don’t know what happened to cause them to change the harness rules, but they would only change it for the best interest of their puppies, not to upset any raisers.

  2. As usual Rebecca, you’re right on target. As an AC, when the harnesses were handed out ~ five years ago, we were given very general instructions regarding the wearing of the harness. Some of the AC’s were allowing puppy raisers to take them home and some were only worn at meetings. One of the documents you sign before receiving a guide dog puppy to raise stipulates you will not represent yourself as a guide dog trainer, but as a puppy raiser. If that is so important to put it on paper and have you sign it, how much more Important is for it to not portray yourself as a blind person? Which when you see someone in public with a dog in harness, you automatically think they are blind. By having the dog wear the harness even one time in a very familiar atmosphere, the trainers felt would jumpstart the program when they came in for training.
    But it’s not all bad news. There are new coats being distributed by Puppy Raising Services that say, “Guide Dog in Training” replacing the old coats which say, “Puppy in Training”. How many times have you been out in public and someone reads the coat and say aloud, “How cute? A Puppy in Training”? These new coats will hopefully help eliminate that and also open the door for the favorite dialog of mine, “Is that a Seeing Dog?” Me, “No, only dogs trained at one guide dog school in the US can be called a “Seeing Eye Dog”. This dog is from a world class guide dog training facility in FL called Southeastern Guide Dogs.” I usually follow this up with an explanation of how it’s a copyright thing like, Kleenex tissues etc. And to my chagrin, I usually hear, “Hey hon, come over here and see this Seeing Eye Dog.”
    Love the name of your blog, by the way!