One thing my job, training guide dogs for the blind, has taught me is to not be so self conscious.
There are always people around: asking “annoying” questions, glaring, pointing…
“Why is she having her dog walk to a bench and rewarding him for it?” or “Excuse me, can I give your dog a biscuit?” or “So… is the dog blind or are you blind?”
Since I do most of my training in the city, I felt a bit awkward in the beginning. It felt odd correcting my dogs if they walked onto the road without first stopping. They have to stop to signal their future owner (someone who is blind) that there is a small step or a sidewalk before the street. So I really make sure the dog stops. If he doesn’t, I have to turn around and walk toward the street again until he does. Sometimes I miss the green light and have to wait a while longer. I get looks…
But the key to training is consistency. I can’t have my dogs thinking that they can stop before a street sometimes but not when there are people around! So there’s a lot of pressure on following through.
This can be hard because, I’m sure this is the same for others, we want our animals to come across “perfect”. As in, “Oh, I never have to correct my horse/dog, etc” But we do… The truth about it is that if we show our animal we are still a good leader for them even when we’re around others, they will relax and behave around others as well.
I train with the dogs as if there is no one watching me and I give their commands loud and clear – not muffled to avoid too many turning heads. It’s easy for me now to ask people to put their barking dogs on a leash and, if they aren’t able to call them back, I feel alright chasing their pup off myself. If I take my job as my animal’s leader seriously, they’ll take their job as my partner seriously as well, and our communication and discipline will soar!