Guide dogs get trained |

Guide dogs get trained

Rex Bovee

A sunny day, an outdoor class, lots of friends to greet – it was no surprise that the students at a Saturday class at Eagle Valley Middle School were distracted.

Actually, that was the whole point of the class.

Pat Cook, of Summerfield, Calif., came to town just to a class about how to handle distractions.

The distracted students, though, were an assortment of golden and Labrador retrievers being raised by area 4-H members to be guide dogs for the blind.

When the dogs are matched with owners, they will have to overcome the urge to greet every person or pooch who comes along, so Cook was showing the trainers how to teach the dogs to respond to verbal directions and lease manipulations when distracted.

Cook even provided a guaranteed distraction. She had a pooch in a small pen and, when a future guide dog went greet it, she demonstrated the recall technique – a quick yank on the leash along with a verbal command.

“You don’t want to drag your dog back over to you,” she explained. “You give a quick pop on the chain and a commend to let him know what’s expected.”

Cookie, a 1-year-old golden retriever from Gardnerville was heading for nose-to-nose contact when Cook popped her leash. Cookie did a quick about face and came over to Cook, who lavished praise on the pooch for the proper response.

Area 4-H students have been raising and training dogs for Guide Dogs for the Blind, based in San Rafael, Calif., for several years.