Guide Dog Class Lecture: Total Barricades and Traffic Encounters
A large part of your guide dog’s workload involves moving you away from and around obstacles. Your guide will avoid most obstacles by moving slightly to the left or right. If the obstacle blocks your path, however, your dog may need to show it to you. In the case of moving obstacles such as automobiles, bicycles and even pedestrians, your guide may need to stop (and perhaps step backward) or pick up speed, depending on the situation.
An obstacle that blocks your path of travel is called a total barricade. When approaching one, your guide dog maintains the travel line while guiding you close to the obstacle for you to physically locate and identify. In general, to maintain your orientation your guide dog should not make a 90 turn unless you command it. When your guide shows you the obstacle, you can be more confident and oriented in your handling.
Once you locate the total barricade, praise your dog for showing it to you. Most often, the best option is to work your dog toward the parallel street by doing a turn to the curb. Once there, read your traffic and prepare to give a “forward" into the street. As you step into the street, immediately give a moving turn command. Stay as close as possible to the obstacle as you move around it. Praise your dog at the up curb and give the command "forward". Many dogs may want to initiate a moving turn back to their original line of travel. Allow them to do this as you offer a moving turn command while stepping out of the street.
At times, your dog may show you a partial barricade disguised as a total. As your guide follows through on your turn command toward the street, it may be possible to get around the obstacle without actually entering the street. This is acceptable and demonstrates initiative on your dog’s part. Allow him to do so and you’re on your way.
In order to keep you safe, your guide dog may react to moving cars in a variety of ways. Your dog may stop. Your dog may back up. Your dog may maintain pace and continue forward. Your dog may increase its pace. Or, your dog may simply watch a vehicle without taking any obvious action. During the class traffic route, you may experience your dog doing any or all of these movements to maintain a safe buffer between you and the car.
Each guide dog will have individual responses to vehicles. Some dogs may get closer to a vehicle while others may want more space. Other dogs may speed up past a car while another may maintain pace while watching the vehicle carefully. Some dogs may back straight up while others may curve a bit. All responses are appropriate. During class, you will gain a good understanding of how your guide dog responds to traffic. Remember that a guide dog may judge a traffic situation differently than you. Guide dogs are trained to disobey commands when they consider the situation unsafe.
Guidework involves teamwork. During a traffic check, it is important to notice and respond to your dog’s movements. Immediately following a traffic response, allow your dog to continue to watch the vehicle while you give only verbal praise. If in the middle of the street, allow your dog to continue forward on its own to complete the crossing, or you may say “curb” to resume movement to the up curb. If you feel you may have curved a bit during a back up with your dog, take a moment to check your orientation before resuming guidework. Once the situation has cleared and/or you are safely out of the street, take time to physically praise and reward your dog for a job well done! Whether we are walking, driving or riding, we need to be ready to adjust to the obstacles that get in our way.
You can stream the audio of the class lecture here, via a Soundcloud widget. If using a screen reader, please select the "Play" option below.