A Journey From Pup To Guide – How Your Support Is Gifting The Blind, One Dog At A Time: Part 2
We’re back! Today we get to dive into what all actually goes into training a pup to be a guide dog with Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO TRAIN A DOG? Training a guide dog is a lengthy and time-consuming process involving direct interaction between trainer and dog. Unfortunately, there are no short cuts to producing guide dogs, thus it takes almost two years from the birth of a puppy before it can be considered to be a fully trained guide dog.
ARE THERE PREFERRED SPECIFIC BREEDS? The most common breeds used are Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers due to their established intelligence and normally passive nature. Although the above breeds are the most common you can see other breeds of dogs also guiding their handlers around.
SO, HOW DOES IT WORK EXACTLY? The process of training begins with the pups being taken from their litter box at 7 weeks of age and lodged with foster
families until they are approximately 14-18 months of age. During this period, they are treated as family pets but are exposed to shopping centres,
libraries, stores, city streets, buses, cars and people. The aim is to completely socialize the pup in the environment where it will probably live
with its future master. The next stage of its training lasts for six to eight months during which professional instructors teach the dog to walk
in harness and to avoid obstacles as well as to indicate to its future master how to navigate a safe route to destinations. The final stage of
training lasts one month when the trained dog is introduced to its new partner and they eat, sleep and work together, building trust and confidence
in each other. The visually-impaired person and new guide dog live and work together for 25 days visiting almost every kind of environment they
might encounter in the years ahead.
DOES THE USER PAY?
When the team graduates from the training program, the client pays $1.00 to Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind for the use of his/her guide dog over what is generally a period of nine years. Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind maintains an
aftercare service, which entails visits by their training staff to the client's home to ensure the dog is performing to an acceptable standard.
Stay tuned for our final post of this three part series, where we delve into the amazing details of how they work one on one with their handlers.