“Training Day” – Day 3

 In Training My New Guide Dog "Africa"

November 14, 2008. 4:30 P.M.

Lookout San Francisco, here comes Africa. Before we began our training earlier this week Todd asked me to give him a list of areas of work I wanted to cover during training. I indicated that I wanted to do as much big-city work as possible since I knew a lot of my travels take me to larger metropolitan areas. Although I am gaining quite a bit of confidence in Africa already I think it is important to work different areas and different scenarios in order for Africa and me to become used to each other in many different environments. Also, training is the time to learn new techniques as well is brush up on the old ones. Finally, training is a great time to hone my reaction skills since movements with a new dog are always sharper and more crisp. My job is to keep those crisp reactions on both our parts as long as possible.

Clicker training and food rewards are not new at GDB. However, I know that I have not been in the habit of using them to their best advantage. During this time with Todd I intend to make every effort to strengthen the habit of using these powerful tools appropriately.

Todd arrived as usual at 9 a.m. sharp. After spending a few minutes discussing the previous days events including how we all fared last evening it was off to the City. Todd decided that we would do a “pretty easy” route this morning. We drove into the city, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, and drove to an area near Chestnut and Fillmore streets. Todd explained that we were going to do a little bit of bus work by walking to the northeast corner of Chestnut and Fillmore where we would catch a bus at a bus stop often frequented by GDB trainers and students.

By the way, a wrinkle I introduced into this morning’s trip was that I carried with me at talking GPS system, the Trekker Breeze. The Breeze is a very easy to use system intended to be used during orientation and training as well as by people who do not want a complicated GPS product and who only plan on walking simple routes. Through The Michael Hingson Group I have been talking with GDB about exploring ways to use the Breeze during in class training. My plan was to identify a “landmark” with the Breeze during our walk today, move several blocks away from the landmark and then asked the Breeze to plan a route back to the landmark.

We arrived in San Francisco a little after 10. On the way to our parking place Todd drove by the bus stop at Chestnut and Fillmore so I could identify it as my landmark for the Breeze. After parking I asked the Breeze to create a route to the bus stop. I then followed that route. The Breeze created a route which was easy to follow and which provided good instructions every step of the way. Africa was great as usual. The sidewalk was pretty empty and so it wasn’t long before we reached the bus stop.

A bus soon arrived which we boarded. Soon we proceeded on our way. We traveled about six blocks and then disembarked for the walk back to the bus stop and eventually the van.

Again, I asked the Breeze to create a route back to the bus stop. The walk was uneventful. I was pleased with what I learned about using the Breeze during training. This was just the first experiment. We have a long way to go before deciding that GPS could be a part of in-class use. We did encounter a few dogs and pedestrian obstacles on the way back to the bus stop, but Africa handled them with aplomb and grace. Can you tell I’m already getting prejudiced toward Africa?

After reaching the bus stop we walked around the area a bit more. We made our traditional morning stop at a local coffee shop, this time Starbucks, where I had my usual cup of tea and Todd had his usual cup of coffee. Africa had no complaints as she was making out pretty well in the food reward department.

A little after Noon we returned to the van where we decided to go to Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch and another workout through crowds of people. Several times during our three days of training Todd mentioned a place in San Francisco that served New England clam chowder in a sourdough loaf bowl. Well, with that as a hint it seemed reasonable while in the city to find this restaurant and enjoy the food. Actually, Boudin is a sourdough bread making company which also serves sandwiches and soups in sourdough bread bowls. It is one of the most famous sourdough bread manufacturers in the City.

We parked several blocks away from the restaurant and worked a route to it. After lunch, which incidentally was wonderful, we walked around Fisherman’s Wharf to give Africa lots of opportunity to work in and through crowds of people. There were lots of dogs around to distract her. However, she did well.

By 2:30 p.m. we were ready to call it a day and travel back to Novato. In all it was a great day. Todd and I were both pleased with the performance of the team. I think Africa is settling in nicely and we are beginning to bond just as we should.

After returning home Todd and I made plans for our Saturday trip. Yes, Saturday is a training day as well. We agreed to meet about nine o’clock Saturday morning to walk around downtown Novato and do a little bit of shopping in the local Costco. After shopping and returning home we would switch to our personal van and travel with my wife Karen to one of our favorite wineries in the Carneros region just outside Napa. Saturday is beginning to sound like a pretty full day, but I think will survive it. Come back tomorrow to learn how Africa survived a day in Wine Country.

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  • Jenny

    Hi Michael. I really enjoyed reading your blog entries so far, and I hope the rest of your training with Africa goes well.
    I got my first guide dog OJ from Cork in Ireland last year. Its interesting to hear how they are trained in other areas e.g. Cork doesn’t teach training on moving stairs. Its also interesting to hear from guide dog owners with so much experience. Good luck with dog number 7!

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