Guiding Eyes Work FAQ
I got my first guide dog from Guiding Eyes in 1990 --Aster
Labrador guided me faithfully for 10 long years.
I returned in February 2000 to get my second guide dog and
while in class realized all the things that Aster had been
doing that I had come to take for granted.
I had to work explicitly on having Aster's successor do all
these things for me in the beginning; at the same time, I
also realized the things that I had forgotten during the ten
years of being away from Guiding Eyes --including some of
the bad habits I had picked up over time.
I'm putting this FAQ together during the final week of class
in the hope that it will prove a useful resource to me and
other graduates over time.
Each section of this document focuses on a specific aspect
of guide-dog training and use. Subsections within each
section will enumerate the various dos and donts of proper
guide-dog use. Credit for all of the content in this
document goes to the excellent instructors at Guiding Eyes;
any errors here are purely mine and will be hopefully
eliminated as this document gets perused by people who know
better. Note that I have now worked with four Guiding Eyes
instructors and two class supervisors during my two stints at Guiding Eyes; a lot of
the initial material in this document
reflects their specific views on training. There is always
more than one way to do something right;
over time this document will hopefully come to cover
different trainers' techniques for achieving the final goal
of having a successful, happy guide-dog.
Use a heeling leash i.e., the short leash folded in half. A
dog that heels well should not be felt at the end of the
leash. Though it is tempting, do not allow the dog to
guide (or pretend to guide) while heeling --this
means that the dog should not be pulling when heeling.
If you feel the dog pulling and find that command
heel produces no response the first time,
snap back with the leash when giving the command a second
time. Once the dog has stopped pulling, prevent the dog from
getting out in front so there is no chance for the dog to
Use a long leash; the leash is held in the right hand and
all hand-signals are given with the left hand; (except for
command stay where we use a right-hand
signal). Note that a leash correction (if necessary) should
be given with the left-hand during obedience; a right-hand
leash correction will swing the dog out right and cause the
dog to lose position.
Synchronize ahnd-signals with
voice commands for each exercise; as the dog gets
conditioned to respond appropriately transition to using
just hand-signals. All voice commands are preceded by the
dog's name (except for command stay where
we do not use the dog's name). During all the obedience
exercises, do not move your feet; let the dog do all the
Exercise: Sits And Downs
Dog should be sitting on your left in line with your left
To check that the dog is well-aligned, put your left hand
down along your body --the palm should
rest on the top of the dog's head.
Stick your left foot out alongside the dog so the dog does
not have a chance to swing out to your right.
With the dog in a sitting position, give command
synchronize the verbal command (given in a calm but firm
voice) with your hand-signal. The hand-signal is given by
moving the left-hand down towards the ground --palm down. It
might also help to bend slightly at the waist.
If the dog does not go down the first time, help her down
with the left hand on the leash.
Check that the dog is down before praising. Note that the
dog need not necessarily rest the head flat on the ground to
complete the down command; they are allowed to look around
since in a public area you certainly want to allow the dog
to look around to make sure no one is about to step on their
To bring the dog back to the sit
position, use command sit.
Use a soft but more excited voice to give the verbal
command; synchronize this with the hand-signal which is to
tap on your left side with the left hand.
If the dog does not come up the first time, use a short jerk
on the leash with the left hand when repeating the command.
As the dog comes up, you may need to confirm that they do an
immediate sit by putting your left hand down to check. If
the dog is not completely sitting, push down on their butt
with your left hand to complete the sit.
Do this exercise twice and when done leave the dog in the
Exercise: Sit And Stay
With the dog still sitting, give command
--without using the dog's name.
Use a soft, firm voice to give the verbal command;
synchronize this with the right-hand signal
where the palm is facing the dog, fingers pointing up to the
Command stay is given thrice; the first time while
standing alongside the dog, the second time while facing the
dog, and finally after walking out to the end of the
After having walked out to the end of the leash and given
the command the third time, switch the leash to the right
hand, and trail along the length of the leash with your left
hand to walk back to the dog. Give the dog a wide berth so
you do not get too close to the dog with your feet and
break the stay.
Once you're back in position alongside your still sitting
dog, praise before repeating the exercise a second time.
Exercise: Down And Stay
Now, put the dog in the down
position as before, and have the dog stay
just as you did in the previous exercise.
Do two down stays before moving on to the final exercise.
Exercise: Sit Stay And Recall
With the dog in the sit
position, do a stay and walk out to the end of the
leash as before. This time, after giving the final
command, do not walk back to the dog. Instead, switch the
loop of the leash to your right hand, and call the dog to
As the dog walks towards you, take up the slack in the leash
with the left hand, leaving enough room for the dog to walk
up to and past you. After passing you, the dog should
turn around and sit beside you.
If during the turn you feel the dog is not turning fully,
give a quick snap to the leash.
Finally, complete the sit by catching the dog's rear end
with your left hand to ensure that the dog is in the final
During this entire exercise, do not move your feet while
the dog is coming to you; let the dog do all the work and
come to a complete rest at your side.
The dog should always be lying alongside your chair with
their head facing outwards. If you're sitting with your
back to a wall, the dog will probably refuse to lie facing
the wall; in this case allow the dog to lie facing the
Do not let the dog get under the table, all that means is
that the dog is off looking for crumbs. Do not allow the dog
to lie perpendicular to your chair either --the dog is
likely to get hurt by a passing waitress.
Once the dog is lying down, give the dog's head just enough
room on the leash to be able to look around --but restrict
the slack on the leash so the dog does not roll over etc.
Command forward is used when setting off
with the dog in harness. Stand with your left foot out
alongside the dog before giving the command. Synchronize the
verbal command forward
with the forward hand-signal --a short forward motion with
the right hand.
Wait for the dog to start pulling and when you feel the pull
on the harness handle, take the first step with your right
Here are somethings to watch out for:
As soon as the dog starts pulling and you've taken the first
step, praise the dog in a calm voice and go with the dog's
A dog that is working well will clear obstacles both on the
left and right.
Go with the dog's pull and make sure that the dog has enough
space to work.
At the same time, if the dog starts pulling strongly to one
side, it might be time to check why; the dog may be pulling
out to avoid an unusual obstacle or may be looking for the
edge of the curb to relieve himself.
- Do not start moving until the dog
has started pulling.
- Take the first step with your right foot; this is
important. Stepping off with the
left foot ends up forcing the dog away to the left
from the direction in which you want to be
going; this would be a critical error especially during street
- If you need to stop for some reason while
the dog is pulling, use command
to come to a stop before dropping the
harness handle; do not simply drop the
harness handle as this will give your dog
an automatic left-hand leash correction.
When the dog needs to clear an obstacle on your right, you
will feel the dog moving out to the left. Go with the dog
and give calm praise as you feel the dog swerve back and
around the obstacle.
Over time, the clearances become so natural that you almost
do not notice that the dog is clearing --except for the lack
of large contusions on various parts of your body.
When clearing obstacles on the dog's left, you and your dog
will need to move right. This means that initially the dog
has to come right in front of you --it's important to
side-step right to give the dog enough space to
work. Failure to do this on your part will cause your dog to
become nervous about coming to the right when clearing.
It's amazing to think that guide-dogs can clear
pedestrians. If you stop to think about this, it's a truly
wonderful achievement on the part of the dog; clearing
static objects such as poles and parking meters is one
thing; however pedestrians are moving
obstacles, and the dog is clearly doing on-the-fly planning
when deciding how to clear pedestrians on a sidewalk.
When walking through crowded areas, be aware of this, and
therefore be prepared for your dog to start pulling out left
initially and suddenly swerve right; all that probably
happened there is that the dog started clearing a pedestrian
to the left, who upon seeing the dog jumped in the same
direction that the dog was clearing.
As you go whizzing down that crowded sidewalk with your
guide-dog, you'll want to do a smooth approach to the down
curb and stop with your left foot on the edge of the curb,
perfectly lined up for the next crossing.
Here are some common errors to avoid:
- Shorting Curbs
- Make sure that you stop with your left foot at the
down curb. Ideally, you should sense the dog slowing
down as you approach the downcurb; do not stop at
this point --as this will cause the dog to stop short
of the down curb. Go with the dog's pull, and
encourage the dog to show you the down curb with a
praise the dog as you come to a stop with the left
foot on the down curb.
- Running Curbs
- This is the opposite problem to shorting
curbs. If you feel the dog step into the street
rather than stopping at the down curb, use a leash
correction and rework the curb approach.
To rework the curb, walk backwards a few paces, and
have the dog do a come;
the dog should come back to your left side. At this
point, gently huphup
to have the dog find that down curb.
- Rounding Corners
- Guide dogs have a tendency to round corners as they
come to intersections --this is especially true in
areas where the dog is able to guess where you might
want to go.
As you approach the down curb, keep your shoulders
straight and make sure your parallel traffic is on
your side --rather than behind you.
If you hear the parallel traffic even slightly behind
and over your shoulder, your dog has already started
rounding the corner.
Not rounding corners is important in doing a correct
approach to the downcurb; a dog that attempts to
round corners will not be lined up perfectly to do
the street crossing. To avoid this becoming a problem
over time, always approach the down curb even
if you always turn at a given intersection.
Depending on how the intersection is set up, you will find
yourself lined up with your left foot either at the edge of
the wheelchair ramp or the edge of the downcurb.
If you find yourself at the ramp, make sure that the ramp
does not point out into the intersection.
A dog that is working well should never end up taking you to
the head of a diagonal ramp.
Be aware of other activity around you as you come up to the
downcurb; depending on the amount of pedestrian traffic,
the dog might need to clear you of pedestrians already
waiting to cross.
The dog should either bring you up alongside someone waiting
to cross, or if there is no room wait behind the person
already at the downcurb.
If the dog runs you into someone waiting to cross,
treat this as a serious failed clearance and rework the curb
approach after correcting the dog.
If you need to push a button in order to get a walk signal,
do not try to work the dog to the pole. Instead, do your approach to the down-curb as described above; once you're well-lined up, drop the harness handle and side-step to find the pole with the button.
Once you've pushed the button, pick up the harness handle ; depending on where the pole is located you may need to shuphyp
to find the down curb again.
Once you're perfectly lined up, read your light and decide
when to cross.
Once you decide to cross, give your dog the
command, and step off with your right foot
after the dog has started pulling.
Point your shoulders slightly away from your parallel
traffic and go with the dog.
As soon as you have started moving, gently praise the dog,
and give command straight
once in a firm voice to have the dog work you across to the
While in the street, beware of the possibility of running
into traffic checks from cars that turn in front of you.
The dog should handle these situations by backing up as
While crossing, do not push
your dog by trying to step in front of the dog; nor should
you hang back when the dog is pulling.
Above all, never
drop the harness handle for any reason while in the street.
As you finish the crossing, you should sense the dog slowing
down as you approach the up-curb. Move with the dog --do not
come to a stop--
and have the dog work you to the up-curb.
Praise the dog as you take the first step on to the up-curb
--once again your dog should have stopped you with your left
foot on the up-curb. Step on with your right foot as you
once again give command forward
to continue your trip up the next block.
Note that while you cross you may sense the dog veer
slightly to the left or right to bring you cleanly into the
up-curb; so long as this veering isn't significant, go with
Guide-dogs are trained to handle traffic situations
including the occasional (or not so occasional) bad driver.
Your dog receives a traffic check
when a car turns in front of you, pulls suddenly out of or
into a driveway, or does something else that you and your
dog did not anticipate.
Your guide-dog will typically work around these traffic
checks by either stopping, backing up, or if appropriate
pulling out to clear the traffic check.
When you sense a traffic check, stay calm, go with the dog,
and gently praise the dog after the situation has been
If you need to make a left or right turn at an intersection,
first work up to the down curb in the direction that you are
Do your turns only
after you've made a perfect approach to the downcurb as if
you were about to make the street crossing.
Once you're at the downcurb you're ready to make your left
or right turn; failure to first get to the downcurb will
encourage your dog to round corners over time, and thus mess
up your street crossings.
You've done a perfect approach to the down curb and are
standing with your left out alongside your dog.
When you're ready to turn, move your left back, move back
the harness handle, and give command left
as you turn into the dog.
This should cause the dog to do a left turn.
Note that at some intersections, the dog will need to work
you around obstacles such as poles ; go with the dog as you
make the turn.
This is somewhat simpler than the left turn because you're
not turning into the dog.
Use a hand signal combined with a verbal
to make a right turn.
Turning Into a Curb
If you need to cross your parallel street, you'll first make
an approach to the downcurb in the direction that you're
At the down curb make your turn as described above. As you
make the turn (clearing any poles that might be in the way)
have the dog huphup
to find the down curb for the street that you're about to
If all goes well, your dog will once again do a perfect
approach into the downcurb to line you up for your actual
turn is used to have the dog find a particular opening or
turning you're looking for.
Use a gentle left left
to have the dog look for the turn; do not correct the dog
if your dog overshoots the turn.
You may need to initially
certain openings or turns that you're interested in finding
on a regular basis.
This is useful to do
for locating hard to find things like mailboxes or a
specific store in the middle of a busy sidewalk.
While working the dog in harness, have a friend tell you
when you get to the appropriate spot; do a
with your dog at that point and come to a stop. Tap the spot
out with your left foot and praise the dog.
Take the leash in your right hand and walk backwards a few
paces. With the leash in your right hand, pick up the
harness handle and huphup
to have the dog find the spot you just landmarked. Praise up
the dog for having stopped at the landmark; after a couple
of successful attempts the dog should find the landmark with
no difficulty on a regular basis.
Note that the above sounds flaky
on the surface; however during my 10 years with Aster she
would unerringly take me to my hotel room in any number of
hotels after being shown the room once.
It's quite amazing to go zipping down a long hotel corridor
and come to a dead stop in front of your room.
Of course things like facial vision and the ability to count
doorways as you pass them help as well.
This is for walking in areas where there is no
sidewalk. Walk along the left edge of the street, and from
time to time ensure that the dog is not veering out into the
middle of the street. To ensure this, do a
and follow it by doing a left turn. The dog should bring you
to the left edge either a grassline --or as at present in
NY-- the snow bank.
If all is going well you should hit the grassline in about
one to two steps.
Praise the dog, and when you're ready, make a
Landmarking is almost indispensible in this form of walking
in order to recognize when you've reach specific points
along your route.
Approach stairs just as you approach curbs; i.e., stairs
going up is like an up-curb; stairs going down is like a
The dog should stop with your left foot at the edge of the
first step; praise the dog, and do a
to have the dog pull you up or down the stairs. As the dog
pulls, step off with your right foot and praise the dog.
Note that some people choose to heel their dog up and down
stairs; I always worked aster on every flight of stairs I
If you feel the need, you can also hold on to the railings
as you work the dog up or down stairs; personally I've never
bothered to hold the rails except when the ground is icy.
Escalators should be avoided as far as possible since they
pose a serious risk of injuring the dog. If you must use an
escalator, here is the safe
way to do it that Guiding-Eyes teaches its graduates in
- Never pull your dog backwards off stairs --this is a very frightening experience for a dog.
Work the dog up to the plate of the escalator. Put your hand
out to find the moving hand-rail and make sure that it is
Drop the harness handle after doing a wait
and praise the dog for having brought you to the escalator.
After making sure that there is no one immediately ahead of
you on the escalator, heel the dog on to the escalator,
making sure that the dog does not get in front of you.
Your left foot should be ideally on the same step --or even
ahead of your dog.
Keep your hand on the hand-rail and have the dog
at your side; as you sense the hand-rail flattening out,
start heeling your dog off the escalator. Make sure that
both you and your dog are moving as you come to the end of
the escalator, and continue to walk a few paces after you
get off before praising the dog and picking up the harness
Elevators are easy; just have the dog guide you to the door,
find the button and wait for the elevator.
When you get in, work the dog into the elevator, do a
complete turn so you're facing the door, and have the dog
sit at your side before finding the buttons.
Elevators you use frequently can be landmarked;
Aster used to faithfully stand with her nose under the
button of elevators that I rode on a regular basis.
Depending on the design of the bus, you should be able to
either work your dog onto the bus; if this is not possible
--e.g. the steps are too narrow, then heel the dog up the steps.
Once you find a seat, have the dog sit in front of you on
the floor, making sure that no paws or tail are in danger of
getting stepped on.
Get in first when riding in cars or vans. Cars are easy; you
get in and immediately have the dog come in and sit at your
feet. When riding in vans, you may need to put the dog at an
enter the vehicle and find your seat, and finally give command break
to break the stay and jump in with you.
Leash corrections when used must be well-timed to be
effective. Do not use repeated leash corrections as over
time this will tend to have no effect on the dog.
When used, a leash correction should have been preceded by a
verbal command that the dog did not respond to; in this
case, give the command a second time and synchronize it with
an appropriate leash correction.
For leash corrections to be effective --especially when
heeling-- the collar should be nice and loose on the dog's
The sound of the correction probably means as much to the
dog as the jerk of the collar around the neck; remember, the
purpose of a leash correction is not to show-off your physical
strength to your dog.
Different instructors emphasize different auditory effects
of the leash correction; when I got Aster, the class
instructor loved saying
- Do not get on an escalator that is not moving --since
it is impossible to say which direction it will go if
it starts up while you're on it.
- Do not pull the dog backwards off the escalator --this will scare the dog and probably stop him from working.
I want to hear that
(we presented her with a zip fastener at the end of the
when I got Aster's successor Bubbles), the instructor
focused more on the snap
of the leash as one gave a correction. Wehther you're
focusing on the zipping sound of the choke chain or the snap
of the leash, just remember that the purpose of your leash
correction is not to hurt the dog.
Right-hand Leash Correction
A right-hand leash correction is used for minor infractions
while working e.g., excessive sniffing or being otherwise
distracted. When giving a right-handed corrrrection while
working, make sure to first take the leash in your right
hand and give a quick snap towards your right hip. Do not
simply jerk the leash with your right hand whilst still
holding it in the left. If you do this, all that happens is
that the dog hears the sound of a correction --without
actually feeling one-- when you eventually do give a strong
correction the dog will probably either ignore it or get
surprized and even scared by it.
Left-hand Leash Correction
A left-hand leash correction signifies a serious infraction
to your guide-dog. Use it for blown clearances, running
steps or downcurbs etc. To give a left-handed leash
correction, drop the harness handle and jerk back on the
leash. Note that when your dog is pulling hard in harness
and moving at a good clip, dropping the harness handle
without warning causes your dog to get an automatic
left-hand leash correction. If you need to stop for some
reason (e.g., to tie your shoe-lace) while your dog is
pulling you along a sidewalk, first use command
wait, come to a stop, and only then drop
the harness handle.
Use a harness check as a correction to slow down a strongly
pulling dog that is ignoring command
You can also use a harness check to correct a dog that is
running an up-curb or up-step.
To give a harness check, stop your own forward motion, and
jerk back on the harness handle.
Combined with the dog's own forward pull, this causes the
breast plate of the harness to give the dog a harness
- GOOD (girl/boy)
- Your dog's favorite word.
- Use to set off with the dog pulling in harness. A
happy guide-dog's second most favorite word.
- Make a left turn now.
- Make a right turn now.
- Indicated or suggested left turn.
- Indicated or suggested right turn.
- Use to come to a stop while the dog is pulling in harness.
- Use to slow down a strongly pulling dog.
- Use in street crossings to have the dog go
to the opposite up-curb.
- Use to find the down-curb that you're approaching,
locate steps etc. In general, command
is used to have the dog pull you in to things that
the dog should be working up to and coming to a dead
stop on his own.
- Lie down. This does not mean roll over on your back
for a tummy rub.
- Use this to have the dog to hold position, in
anticipation of the next command.
- Use this to break your dog's stay.
- Use this to have the dog walk by your side on leash.
- LEAVE IT
- Use this to have the dog drop some interesting morsel
she may have picked up.
- Possible synonym for
- Use this for having the dog explicitly come around
and sit at your side. Do not use command
all the time as a place-holder word to get your dog
close to you --see command here instead.
- Use this in all situations where you're calling your
dog and instinctively want to say come.
Email: T. V. Raman
Last modified: Thu Feb 24 07:18:02 2000