The Real Training Begins…

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Tuesday, May 19
I finally had my first real opportunity to walk with Freesia in a public setting in harness. It was such an unfamiliar feeling. For one, the dog is always on my left side, no matter what. This is new for me as I typically use my cane with my right hand. Another thing that I am slowly getting used to is following her and knowing when and when not to trust her. For instance, when walking on a sidewalk, she may pull me a little to the left to guide me around something, but it is also possible that she could pull me to the left so that she can smell a garbage can. It is all about learning to interpret her signals.
You may be interested in how the dog is directed, so I will tell you all that I have learned so far. Many commands involve verbal cues, hand gestures, and body positioning. I’ll start with what I think is the most basic.
•The name of the dog must come before all commands. For example, “Freesia, heal!”
•Healing:
This can be done with the leash, and can be used with or without the harness on, but if the harness is on the dog, healing is done by letting go of the harness handle and only using the leash. This involves holding the dog close to your side and having it walk with you. It can be used in familiar buildings, when redirecting the dog,  or when using sighted guide with another person.
•Forward
This command is used while the dog is in harness. You stand almost parallel to the dogs shoulders, say the word forward, and gesture forward with your hand. The dog then walks a few steps ahead of you. When it comes across a curb or obstacle, it stops so that you can assess the situation.
•Halt
This tells the dog that it should stop.
•Hop up
This tells the dog to walk at a faster pace if they have slowed down, or to continue on the path you want to be on if they try to take you somewhere else.
•Left
You turn to the side towards the dog, so that your knees are almost touching it, you pull the harness a little to the left, gesture with your hand toward the left,  and say the command left.
•Right
You step up toward the dog’s shoulders, step back with your left foot, step outwards and to the side with your right foot, gesture to the right with your hand, and say right.
At first, making successful turns was difficult for me. Sometimes I wouldn’t get my footing right, or I wouldn’t get the dog’s attention. However, I got better at it as I practiced. I know that it will soon come more naturally to me.
Tomorrow I am getting an actual route to travel with Freesia. I am very excited for this.

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