When is a Guide Dog not a guide Dog?

On a free run of course…….

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What a fun day we have had! This morning we were visited by our Dog Care and Welfare Officer, he was lovely and told me all about the things to look our for as signs that Fable is unwell. He also told me all about her 6 monthly health checks at the vets, vaccinations and flee/tick treatments. Its really good to know that Guide Dogs’ health and welfare is being looked after as they work so hard to guide their owners, its important to keep them in tip top condition. This is why its really important other people don’t feed Guide Dogs, even when they aren’t actually working. Fable’s diet is specifically selected for her and I weigh out her food each day, taking into account any treats we use for reward based training (I think maybe I need to apply this principle to my own diet)! If I don’t know what she had eaten I can’t ensure she takes in the right amount of calories to maintain her healthy weight

Then the fun really started; it was time for our first free run! We walked her on harness to my local common; it was a pretty speedy walk, I’m sure she knew where we were going even though she had never been there before.

After a little walk on the lead. obedience work and some on lead recall with the cheese I had in my treat bag, I set her free……

It was so lovely to see her chasing around, being a dog and obviously having fun. As I said in a previous post I was a bit worried about free running as she might be too far away for me to see her and might not come back. I was also worried about other dogs and how she would interact with them. Our GDMI explained that initially she might go crazy as she has worked hard over the last couple of weeks and would have a lot of energy to use. She explained that even though Fable had gone a fair distance from us we should keep walking so that Fable learnt to always keep an eye on me and follow me. She absolutely did this, even though she ran off to explore a log, some hockey players’ kit bags and play with another lovely black lab (I think I already have a dog walking friend). There were times when I couldn’t see her and couldn’t hear the bell on the play collar but our GDMI keep me calm. We did a few recalls, even from a distance she came on my first whistle! She was rewarded with cheese and once she had charged around like a mad thing for about 15 minutes she calmed down and trotted along close by. She was completely exhausted after about 30 minutes so I gave her some water and we had a little rest before putting the harness on and returning home.

The journey home was a bit different to the walk there; I don’t think I have seen her walk that slowly before; a very tired dog! However, it did give us chance to work with our GDMI stalking us from a distance and it gave me time to really think about getting my body position, hand gestures and voice commands consistent. Event though Fable was slow she was still working hard and was really responsive and demonstrated some great obstacle avoidance as well.

So maybe free runs aren’t stressful after all! Free runs are a lovely way to reward such a hard working dog; I really enjoyed seeing her have fun and being a “normal” dog. It was also a big confidence boost for me to know that she comes back to me and to see how she plays with other dogs.

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