Hector and Lilly at the Regional Park
Obedience sessions teach the dogs a lot and when done in a fun way, they do not even know they are learning. On a free run, it is important to make it unpredictable.   Keep your dog on their toes.  Keep them looking for you, not you looking for them.  
If they run too far away, turn the other way and walk away without calling them, let them look for you and when they see you walking away they will come back to you.

(Although you are walking away, don’t completely take your eye off them and be sure when they are running back to you that you have a good stance and make them slow down when they are coming back to you.  

A good way to do this is to stand near a tree or fence.  They will naturally try to protect themselves if they are running towards an obstacle. 

If you are in the middle of a field it is easier for them to get over excited and run into you.  If you are in the middle of a field and they are running very quickly towards you, take a good stance position, put your hands out and very loudly say steady elongating the word steaaaaaaaady. 

Quite often the dogs will come back to you and run close but not right up to you.  If they do, don’t walk towards them as this is like a game, they think they are playing chasing.  Walk away and make yourself very inviting.  And
when they do come in give them huge praise while grabbing hold of the

If your dog comes back to you of their own accord always praise them. The praise can be physical, vocal or food reward. Alternate these to so they never know when they are going to get the treat. Before you even let them
off the lead, let them know you have the treats in your pocket.

If your dog runs off and won’t come back for ages, no matter how frustrated you are, when they eventually do come back, do not give out to them.  It can be very difficult, but if you give out to them when they do come back they will be less inclined to come back to you again.

We are generally creatures of habit ourselves.  We tend to walk the same route for exercise, in one direction or to a point and back. If you let your dog off at the start of a walk by the car, walk your route and then go back to the car and take the lead out again, they will know that it is the end of fun time. 
During a walk, clip on an off the lead randomly so they never know when
the fun will finish.  Part way through a walk, call your dog in, clip on the lead, walk for a minute and then let him/her off again.

Our dogs are fed to a whistle. The whistle is a really handy tool on a free run.  If your dog is running towards danger and you try to call your dog, they
will hear the anxiety in your voice and will be less inclined to come back to
you.  Also if you are calling your dog and he/she is ignoring you and you start getting frustrated, again, he/she will be less likely to come back to you.  By using the whistle, it transmits no emotion and it is such a high pitch it can break the concentration of whatever your dog is focused on.  Also, because your dog has a food association with the whistle, when you blow the whistle they will instantly think of food.

 If you are trying to call your dog and they are playing with another dog for example. You have to exaggerate your behaviour to make yourself more interesting than the other dog. This can include exaggerating body language, using high pitch tones, make yourself very welcoming.
Hector meeting the horses
We try to expose the dogs to as much as possible.  We have access (through our staff to horses, cows, sheep, cats, birds,
guinea pigs, rabbits, reptiles, fish.)  As we match families on the waiting list if they have any of these animals or frequent contact with any of these animals it is important that their
dog will be comfortable around these animals so we let them meet to check how they cope.  It can be very tough on a dog learning how to cope with animals they are not familiar


Our dogs are allowed some access to petting farms. Anywhere there is a breeding programme access is restricted due to the high risk of infection for both the breeding animals and our own dogs.  Our dogs are not allowed in the Zoo or Fota Wildlife Park. I understand that this is upsetting for some however, personally I don’t have a problem with this as it would be very stressful on our dogs to try to cope in such an environment.  They have never seen elephants, giraffe’s, monkey’s etc so to expect them to work in those situations would only increase their stress levels.  You would find that by bringing your dog to those areas it would make your life more difficult rather than easier which defeats the purpose of having an Assistance Dog.

Until next time,

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    About this Blog

    Welcome to Puppy Hector's Blog:
    Follow RTE 2fm's "Breakfast with Hector" adopted pup's progress as he trains to become a guide dog for a person living with sight loss or an assistance dog for families of children with autism.

    RTE 2fm & Hector Ó hEochagáin:
      RTE 2fm's Breakfast Show Crew and host Hector ÓhEochagáin have been supporting pup Hector since adopting him at 8 weeks of age. During the last year, they have been helping us create awareness about our work and just what goes into into training a guide dog. Their support has been invaluable and has helped to raise much needed funds towards Hector's training. 

    About the Blog Authors, Susan Turtle and Michele Munnelly:
    Susan Turtle has been with Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind as a trainer for over
    13 years. Puppy Hector joined her in January this year to commence Early
    Training. She'll be keeping you posted on his progress over the next few months. Prior to January, Hector was with Volunteer Puppy Walker, Michele Munnelly who helped him get started
    on his journey to becoming a guide or assistance dog.  

    About Puppy Hector:
    Hector was born on 17 October 2010 and is German Shepherd x Golden Retriever. He is an intelligent, lively dog destined to become a life changing partner to a person living with sight loss or a family of a child with autism.   

    The role of a Puppy Walker:
    A Volunteer PW fosters a pup
    from 8 weeks of age to 12 months. During this time, the
    pup becomes part of their lives
    at home. A PW cares for and trains the pup to become a well rounded, confident, calm, willing, mannerly and socially acceptable dog.  The main focus
    is on obedience and socialisation, ensuring the pup is comfortable in many different environments like shops, restaurants, buses, trains, busy streets and malls etc.  Also the dog must get on with and not be distracted by people and other animals.  All of this provides the pup with a solid foundation for their future training and role as a guide or assistance dog. All training is done through positive reinforcement, learning should
    be fun, "a happy pup is a willing pup".

    Supported by PW Supervisors:
    Volunteer PWs are supported by our PW Supervisors who provide training and ongoing guidance. This is done through practical Puppy Training Classes, home visits and one‐on‐one training in supermarkets, shops, train
    stations etc.  The PW Supervisors provide valuable guidance and support to help equip our Volunteers for the task at hand and to monitor each pup's progress. All veterinary fees and feeding costs are covered by The Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind along with placing pups in homes when Volunteer PW's go on holidays.

    Come on and become a Puppy Walker for Irish Guide Dogs!
    It is a commitment but one that is rewarding and great fun!
    Go to www.guidedogs.ie to apply!


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guidehector@gmail.com www.puppyhector.weebly.com Hector having a snooze in his cozy dog crate after our walk and bus ride this morning