But standing in line at an event I was working tonight, I met a rather interesting gentleman. Over ten years ago he fell in love with a girl, and just a few months after he proposed she came down with huntington’s disease. This young, healthy, lively and active girl’s life changed dramatically. She’s in a wheelchair now, with a seeing eye dog, and she has very, very limited motor skills. He has taken care of her every single day since she got sick, and he has made a career out of training seeing eye dogs. Thus far, he has trained three dogs for his fiancee and countless more for police departments.
He told me he gets all the best dogs from pounds. He said fancy breeders are too much of a toss up. Just because one dog has the gene to be a service dog doesn’t mean the puppies will. He has it down to a science now – seeing the potential in each dog, isolating what habits will be the hardest for the dog to abandon, and what habits are simply a part of a dog and can never be trained “away.”
I asked him what his secret is with training these dogs to be so loyal and focused. He said something interesting that I think applies to humans too. You have to ask them to do something they’re capable of in the beginning, so they can feel a sense of accomplishment and you can praise them.
Some days it’s about the challenges. Others it’s about doing the simple stuff and praising yourself nonetheless.