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 pull again.
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 work.
Exercise: Sits And Downs
Dog should be sitting on your left in line with your left hip.
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
down; 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 tails.
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 sit position.
Exercise: Sit And Stay
With the dog still sitting, give command stay
--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
ceiling. 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
obedience leash. 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
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: 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 stay command, do not
walk back to the dog. Instead, switch the loop of the leash to
your right hand, and call the dog to you. 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 sit position. 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
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 opposite direction.
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 foot.
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
- 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 crossings.
- If you need to stop for some reason while the dog is
pulling, use command wait 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 gentle huphup; 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
Once you're perfectly lined up, read your light and decide when
to cross. Once you decide to cross, give your dog the
forward command, and step off with your right
foot only 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 opposite
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
appropriate. 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 the dog.
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 handled completely.
If you need to make a left or right turn at an intersection,
always first work up to the down curb in the
direction that you are moving. 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
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
right 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 initially
going. 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 cross. If all goes well, your
dog will once again do a perfect approach into the downcurb to
line you up for your actual crossing.
A suggested or indicated 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 landmark 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 wait
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 wait 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
right and continue. 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 down-curb.
The dog should stop with your left foot at the edge of the
first step; praise the dog, and do a forward
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 ever took. 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 class.
- Never pull your dog backwards off stairs
--this is a very frightening experience for a
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
moving away from you. 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 stay 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 handle.
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
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
explicit stay, 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
neck. 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
zip (we presented her with a zip fastener at the
end of the class); 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
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
Use a harness check as a correction to slow down a strongly
pulling dog that is ignoring command steady.
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
- Use to slow down a strongly pulling dog.
- Use in street crossings to have the dog go
straight to the opposite up-curb.
- Use to find the down-curb that you're approaching, locate
steps etc. In general, command huphup 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
- Lie down. This does not mean roll over on your back for a
- 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 leave it
- Use this for having the dog explicitly come around and
sit at your side. Do not use command come
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