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It’s been a while since I did a walk video so here’s some footage from today’s walk with friends at a state park.  It was chilly and a bit windy but a lovely day for a walk.  (ok now it’s freaking snowing, 2″ this afternoon they say.  You’ve got to be kidding me!)

Because I’ve not before, I added some starter clips about how we get ready for our walks.  The dog’s goofy antics once they know it’s walk time!  Tom is going to be 8.5yrs in just a couple of days and we’ll be a team 7 years May 1st.  It makes me so happy that he’s still so gung ho about our walks.

While on the walk my friend and I had a conversation about guide dogs and overhead obstacles.  This was after Tom didn’t notice some branches at my face height and thwack.  And I did my “What the hell?!” startle slight stinging that hurt as thin branches whipped my face response.  Tom is bad, consistently bad, at overhead clearances.  Ok I can amend that, he is bad at overhead clearances that are not consistent.  Obstructions that are always there, he remembers.  Ones that magically appear and randomly are there or not, like branches at certain times of year or after a storm, yea not his forte.

My friend had watched a PBS special recently about dogs and in it it was mentioned how challenging it can be to teach guide dogs to recognize overhead clearances.  James, my first, was pretty good at them.  Better than Tom is at least.  Tom doesn’t really look up.  So for him to reliably tell me about an overhead clearance he goes off of other environmental cues that are at his height.  For overhead obstacles that are always there, he remembers.  And for ones that go up at an angle he seems to reliably get even if they are new to the situation.  But overhead obstacles directly at my face height that show up out of the blue in spaces we’ve been, we usually have to rework.  After the rework, he’ll remember that spot.  Though he still isn’t cuing off the fact that there is something at my head height.  Because the next couple of times we hit that spot, even if the overhead is now gone (like someone trimmed back the branches) he will still stop despite that the obstacle that is now long gone.  After a few more trips on that route with the overhead gone, he’ll go back to not stopping.  That pattern of his clues me in that he’s not actually looking up and figuring out it’s about something at my head, as much as “last time something made her upset.  We stopped, then reworked this, and when I stopped at this spot, she reached up and touched something then I got praised and told I was right that time, so I guess it’s about stopping in this spot to let her reach up and she’ll be happy, praise me and I might get a treat or a good boy pet.”

So while Tom is still Mr Perfect, he does have his flaws 😉  Overhead clearances.  Not his cup of tea.

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