Future Leader Dog, ERIE, has been with his Sight Center family for almost four months already. During that time, he has graduated basic obedience classes, become ALMOST completely housetrained, met hundreds of new people, switched from puppy to adult dog food, and gained over 30 pounds in the process. ERIE has had many highs and lows, as all puppies do. So far, this sweet dog has maintained his quiet intelligence and loving temperament: just part of why WE LOVE ERIE so much!
Another milestone that ERIE has reached is quite poignant and meaningful: he has graduated from donning the bright blue Leader Dogs for the Blind puppy kerchief, and now fits powerfully & proudly into his Future Leader Dog training harness. Through much effort, ongoing practice, and a whole lot of patience, ERIE is slowly learning the very serious responsibilities that come with the honor of wearing a working dog harness.
The first year of training and socialization is a true challenge on many levels, for both pups and handlers. Both must learn by trial and error. Handlers struggle to adhere to very specific training guidelines and worry that their pups are staying on track. Handlers need to ensure their pups are practicing fundamental skills daily, staying healthy and developmentally stable, and steadily growing in confidence and maturity.
Puppies in training need to learn their place in changing environments. They need to become comfortable with a very wide variety of people, places, noises, smells, other animals, and any number of other distractions. Over the course of time, the goal is for the puppy to become practically unshakeable when he or she wears that working dog harness.
The road to becoming a Leader Dog for the Blind is not an easy one. ERIE is slowly learning that he is not a typical puppy, and that there are special rules that apply to him. When ERIE rides in the car these days, he knows that his designated place is on the floor of the passenger seat. He is realizing that he is not permitted to jump up on the furniture or sleep on the sofa, even though his big brother does it all the time. Most importantly, ERIE is starting to get the idea that when he is wearing his working harness, he needs to pay a little more attention to what is going on around him. When ERIE is in his harness, he needs to learn that he is “on the clock,” and playtime is suspended. So, the road for ERIE continues. Day by day, he grows and learns. His sweet puppy features are steadily morphing into those of a handsome adult Labrador before our very eyes. If you would like to be a part of ERIE’s journey as a Future Leader Dog, please call 455-0995, visit us at 2545 West 26th Street, follow ERIE on his Instagram, “@ErieTheEyeDog” or visit www.sightcenternwpa.org.