Nestle and The Serious Art of Sleeping

Guide dogs need to know how to do a lot of different things in order to do their jobs. They have to learn how to stop at curbs, cross the street in a straight line and lead their handlers around obstacles on the sidewalk. These things are important, but in this post I want to highlight a skill that is often overlooked: taking naps. I know – you’re probably thinking that all dogs are awesome at naps, and some of your dogs are probably asleep on the bed right at this moment. Mine certainly is. Service dogs though, have developed napping into an art form.

For instance, a few weeks ago, I took Nestle with me to a college basketball game. One of the local teams here has done quite well this season, so there were a lot of people, food on the floors and minimal space for Nestle to get comfortable. She managed to curl up under my chair and fell immediately asleep. She didn’t even twitch when the home team scored the winning shot right at the buzzer and all the students rushed the floor. I really couldn’t believe how calm she was amidst all the chaos. In her place, I probably would’ve tried to run away!

Learning about how to hang out with their handlers is actually part of a service dog’s training regimen. We call this skill settling, and it’s incredibly important for them to know. They start learning how to do this as young puppies and by the time they’re matched with a handler, they’ve completely mastered the ability to sleep on command. Well, mostly. They are dogs, after all!

One question people often ask me is how my dog flies on a plane with me. The answer is surprisingly straightforward. She curls up under the seat and sleeps the entire time. I can also take her to sporting events, concerts and Sergeant’s ribbon cuttings, knowing she’ll remain calm and collected no matter what’s going on around her.

Of course, the skills my dog knows that involve actual guiding are the reason I use her. However, her wonderful behavior while we’re out and about is almost as important to me. Now, if only I could find a job where sleeping is considered an asset!

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