Bird Observer: The Birding Journal for New England

Bird Observer

The Birding Journal for New England

June 2016

Vol. 44, No. 3

Musings from the Blind Birder: Bird Walking with a Guide Dog

Martha Steele


The author with Alvin. Photograph by Bob Stymeist.

I recently got a guide dog, Alvin, a two-year-old male yellow Labrador retriever. As we enter our first spring together, I am wondering how to teach Alvin to do the bird walk. He is a young and energetic dog, accustomed to a steady trotting pace with a straight line trajectory from curb to curb. By contrast, the bird walk features an inconsistent pace, meandering angles, and frequent stops and starts. How does a dog that has learned to move steadily learn to dawdle while his handler strains to listen and stop for birds?

Can a guide dog be transformed into a birder, or at least do the bird walk, on demand?

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