(VICT) Re: Traffic Training and the Decision to Train a Guide

  • From: "Shelley L. Rhodes" <juddysbuddy@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <vi-clicker-trainers@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2007 17:17:59 -0400

Actually jill,

I also know another GSD from Fidelco who is like your current guide.

I frankly don't think it is really the schools breeding for softer dogs,  I 
have seen tough as nails dogs, some that were so dedicated they would not 
stop, and the like.

I have seen some interesting trends with the GSDs that have popped up in the 
last six or seven years, and it appears to be across the board.

Either you get a

Dominant possibly aggressive prey driven dog
A confident and good guide dog
A soft and unconfident but still serviceable
or a dog that could, well care less, smile if he was being loved or not but 
is not capable of the strees or challenges in traffic or other high 

It is just something that I have seen and heard from Graduates at GDB, 
Fidelco, TSE and Eye Dog Foundation.

It appears that the second type of GSD is getting less and less easy to 
find, and that type one and type four are becoming the dominate personality 

Shelley L. Rhodes B.S. Ed, CTVI
and Judson, guiding golden
Guide Dogs For the Blind Inc.
Graduate Alumni Association Board

Dog ownership is like a rainbow.
 Puppies are the joy at one end.
 Old dogs are the treasure at the other.
Carolyn Alexander

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jill Gross" <jgross@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <vi-clicker-trainers@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Tuesday, April 10, 2007 10:12 PM
Subject: (VICT) Re: Traffic Training and the Decision to Train a Guide

Thank you for sharing this with us. I agree that one should have a lot of
training experience and a good understanding of how a guide animal team
works in tandem.

In ow have my fourth guide. Because I had been training dogs from the time
I was little, I approached my first guide partnerhsip with absolute
confidence. I currently have a dog that I just can't trust.
I feel that the dog (or any other guide animal) needs to be chosen very
carefully to suit "me", not a general population of people who are blind.
My first guide from Fidelco was fantastic. She was confident and eager to
learn. We worked together through some very difficult territory for many
years. When I first was matched with Ona, I found that despite my
experience with dogs and training, I was brought to tears a few times
because she tested me so much. I recall wondering how the average person
who wanted a guide but had no previous experience with dogs would handle a
confident, hard-as-nails dog like Ona. I ultimately loved her personality,
but many others would not have been able to control a dog like that. I
would give a lot to have a dog with that hard-headed, test-you-all-the-way
personality. It has been 20 years since I was first introduced to Ona, and
I am far more experienced with training dogs. I would love to work with an
animal with her traits. The end result is wonderful.

I guess Fidelco noticed the same thing that I did regarding such a
stong-willed animal, so they began to breed a
"softer" dog. These dogs were more docile and very maliable. In other
words, they would be far easier for a novice to handle. My next GSD was
what I refer to as "squirely" meaning that she was indecisive and lacked
confidence. W'hen faced with a new obstruction on the sidewalk, she would
whine and turn in circles. My confidence faltered and I nolonger felt like
I had a partner. Rather, it became my responsibility to get us both to and
from work alive without much contribution from my dog. I finally sotpped
working her and let her be another pet in my house. My current dog is not
a lot better. If sombody looks at my dog and smiles and say "nice dog",
she is rolling over on her back in harness and rolling aorund on the
ground. Not very German shepherd-like behavior. She also lacks confidence
and is indecisive in her work. Again, I find it hard to trust her judgment
and do a lot of the work for her.

This long-winded explanation is to say that the schools are breeding for
traits that they feel will suit the average person who wants a guide dog.
If they need to sacrifice some decisiveness and confidence in order to get
a easy-to-handle animal, so be it. That type of dog will have to suit
everyone. So selecting my own dog that has the personality traits that I
value in a working partner is my primary reason for wanting to train my
own dog. Secondly, I have always taught my dogs to do more things than the
schools did and I always untrained certain behaviors. I might as well work
with a dog myself.

I apologize for the disjointed nature of my e-mail. I have been up for
forty-eight hours writing a grant that has to be submitted this week. I am
extemely tired and I am taking a quick brake to look at e-mail. Again,
thank you Ann for your input. I will certainly reread it when I am awake
and thinking more clearly.


On Tue, 10 Apr 2007, Ann Edie wrote:

> Hi, Jill, Jo,  and Everyone,
> I agree that it is a major undertaking to train one's own guide animal, 
> and
> it is certainly a great responsibility to train a guide dog for another
> person.  However, sometimes I think that we give a bit too much credit to
> the guide dog training programs and their trainers when it comes to the
> uniqueness of guide dog work and the "special" nature of the knowledge the
> official guide dog trainers have.
> To me, guide dogs learn a set of tasks, just as other types of service 
> dogs
> learn a set of tasks.  There is nothing magical about the behaviors or the
> way they are trained.  The important things are:  1) to know what the 
> tasks
> are that you want the animal to perform; 2) the knowledge of how to break
> those tasks down into small steps that the animal can grasp; and 3)
> confidence in your teaching method to accomplish the training.
> I believe that many of us who have had long experience as guide dog
> handlers, and who have had an interest in training and experience in
> training other types of work, can successfully train our own guide 
> animals.
> Have you ever noticed that the guide dog training programs never guarantee
> your safety when travelling with your program-trained dog?  This is
> sensible, because no one can guarantee another person's safety, no matter
> how well-trained the guide animal is.  So the person handling the guide
> animal must always take responsibility for their own safety.  The
> well-trained guide animal can give us useful information about things in 
> the
> environment which we might otherwise not be aware of, and the guide animal
> can perform specific tasks for us which make travel safer and more
> efficient.  But it is still a team effort, and we must be the partner who 
> is
> responsible for ensuring that our guide is focused on the task, feeling up
> to par, and that he possesses all the skills needed for the situation he 
> is
> in.
> I think that where people get into trouble is when they attempt to train
> their own guides without sufficient knowledge of what a guide animal
> actually does.  Some people think that the animal mysteriously "just 
> knows"
> that he is supposed to "take care of us", and that he knows instinctively
> how to do that.  They do not analyze the tasks that the animal must do, 
> and
> they do not teach those skills by formulating and following a systematic
> plan.
> At any rate, I believe that if we know what we want to teach, and if we
> follow an organized and sufficiently chunked down lesson plan, and if we
> have a good guide candidate to work with, and if we use a proven training
> method--Clicker Training, of course, that we have at least as good a 
> chance
> of producing a wonderful guide as do the established guide dog training
> programs.
> Since both you and Jo have mentioned traffic training as one of the 
> biggest
> hurdles in making the decision to train a guide, I thought I might append 
> to
> this message a post I wrote to this list some time ago about Panda's 
> traffic
> training.  It is not meant as a lesson plan, and of course, I give no
> guarantee of anyone's safety if a similar method is used to teach traffic
> work to any other animal.  I offer it as something to consider and to help
> you chunk down the behaviors that need to be taught as partts of traffic
> training.
> I hope it is helpful to you and to anyone else who may be thinking about
> training a guide animal.
> Best,
> Ann
> ------------
> Hi, Everyone,
> To me, "traffic work" refers to the guide's skill in taking me around or
> otherwise out of the path of moving obstacles, especially vehicles, but 
> also
> people on foot, on bicycles, on the segway, on skates or skateboards, etc.
> The "traffic check" refers specifically to rapid stops or evasive action
> taken by the guide to keep us safe in the event of an unexpected approach 
> of
> a moving vehicle, person, or animal.
> To my way of thinking, the "check" in
> the term "traffic check" means "stop" rather than "notice", and refers to
> the fact that the guide has to "check" our forward motion and change 
> course
> rapidly to avoid danger.
> So looking out for traffic happens all the time when my guide looks ahead
> and judges the trajectories of all the moving objects and beings in the
> vicinity and chooses a path which will give both me and her clearance 
> around
> those objects.  She also uses her wide field of vision and her hearing to
> monitor traffic behind and to the sides.
> I believe that this skill is built
> gradually upon the foundation of stationary obstacle work as the guide 
> gains
> experience with guiding the blind handler through many environments.  In 
> my
> case, I clicked and reinforced Panda for any tendency to move over to one
> side of the sidewalk to leave room for oncoming joggers, dog walkers, 
> sports
> teams out for a run, bicyclists, shoppers at the mall, students in the 
> halls
> at school, etc.  She is naturally also very cognizant of such traffic 
> coming
> up to overtake us from behind, and she will similarly pull over to allow
> them room to pass, if necessary.
> In some cases, Panda has decided that the
> safest thing to do is to pull over to the side of the path and stop to let
> the traffic pass before going on.  She will do this when we are walking on 
> a
> sidewalkless narrow road and a car approaches us from in front in our 
> lane.
> If possible she will pull into the mouth of a driveway, and she may or may
> not pause to let the car go by before continuing on our way, depending on
> the size and speed of the vehicle.  I have merely noticed and reinforced
> these behaviors to make them part of Panda's repertoire.
> Formal "traffic checks" were taught in a more organized and systematic
> manner, with the help of Panda's sighted trainer and at least one driver 
> of
> an unfamiliar vehicle.
> We began off the road in a driveway, with Panda's
> sighted trainer handling Panda.  The car was allowed to advance very 
> slowly
> toward Panda as she stood with her trainer on the driveway.  As soon as
> Panda noticed the vehicle, the trainer clicked and rewarded her.
> The reason
> we used the sighted trainer for this part of the training was that the
> sighted trainer could pinpoint more accurately just when Panda noticed and
> reacted to the proximity of the vehicle.  The timing of the click was very
> important at this point, and since little or no movement on Panda's part 
> was
> involved, it might have been difficult for me to catch that moment of
> recognition.
> After a few repetitions, the trainer reinforced any beginning
> of evasive action on Panda's part, such as backing up or moving out of the
> path of the car.  Once this beginning evasive behavior was established, I
> took over the handling of Panda and we went out on quiet residential 
> streets
> to work.
> First we reviewed the noticing and taking evasive action when cars
> approach from directly in front of us.  Then we went on to having the car
> turn into a driveway in front of us and pull out of a driveway in front of
> us.
> We progressed to having the car approach from the side, as a car going
> through a red light at a street crossing might, and also having the car 
> turn
> a corner in front of us, such as on a right turn on red.
> Later we had the
> car approach from the rear and turn in front of us or very close behind 
> us,
> necessitating either a stop and back up or a quick move forward on Panda's
> part.
> At first, during these sessions, Panda's trainer walked behind Panda
> and me to advise me of when to go forward and where to expect the car to
> appear.  Later the trainer simply indicated which direction we should take
> or which street we should cross, and when the driver was in position to
> begin.
> Eventually, both the trainer and the other assistant driver drove
> cars and approached us from all angles and directions as we travelled a
> route.
> The purpose of all of this practice with traffic checks is twofold.
> First, it trains the guide to avoid moving obstacles.  Second, it 
> accustoms
> the handler to trust the guide and to move with the guide to avoid the
> vehicles.
> This is how we trained traffic work and traffic checks.  It may be 
> possible
> for an owner trainer to use naturally occurring traffic to train these
> behaviors completely independently.  However, I think I prefer the more
> systematic and planned team approach for this important element of guide
> work.
> Note that at no point in this training program is it necessary to make the
> guide fear the oncoming vehicle.  We do not have to convince the animal 
> that
> the vehicle can hurt her in order to train her to avoid it.
> The training
> was accomplished solely by rewarding and shaping the behavior we wanted. 
> No
> bopping with rolled up magazines by the driver of the vehicle through the
> open car window or spraying with water or other aversives were used.  The
> training can be accomplished entirely using positive reinforcement.  This
> preserves the guide's confidence and comfort in her work, and avoids the
> introduction of stress into the work.
> Best regards to All,
> Ann
> ---------Original Message -----
> From: "Jill Gross" <jgross@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
> To: <vi-clicker-trainers@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
> Sent: Tuesday, April 10, 2007 2:59 AM
> Subject: (VICT) Re: New member and I clicker
>> Enjoy the book, Jo, it is very good. I might like to talk with you more 
>> at
>> some point. I am becoming convinced that I may need to train my own guide
>> in order to get what I want. I am confident about my ability to do most 
>> of
>> the training on my own, but traffic work is a bit of a concern.
>> I will be starting some private lessons with Pam Dennison next week. She
>> will be helping me to get my saluki puppy ready for the show ring. I
>> intend to talk to her about this also.
>> Jill Gross
>> On Mon, 9 Apr 2007, Jo Clayson wrote:
>>> Jill,
>>> My copy of Click to Calm is in print.  I can see okay, though cataracts
>>> interfere some, but not enough I would need a dog guide.  My dog assists
>>> me
>>> when I have seizures and with my multiple chemical sensitivity and I am
>>> helping another person in training her own guide dog.
>>> Jo

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