Finding Loyal Companions with Guide Dog Training
Dogs are unique, loving creatures that possess awesome innate abilities. And with the right training, some dogs can even smell bombs and illegal substances, identify bad people, and be loyal companions to people with disabilities.
As of 2016, the estimated number of guide dogs servicing the US alone is 500,000. Whether it’s being a source of comfort for people with anxiety or a guide for the visually or hearing impaired, service dogs are known as loyal and devoted companions.
Training dogs is not an easy feat. The process requires conditioning the dog to suppress many of its instinctual urges, including the urge to poop in inappropriate places. Keep reading to learn more about the sophisticated approaches in guide dog training.
Service Dog Training Facilities
Germany established the first guide dog training facility to aid soldiers returning from the first World War. Like any career, health is an important factor to be assigned to the job, so healthy dogs were selected to fulfill this job regardless of their breed. These dogs were carefully observed and trained, and once they are capable of guiding a person with disabilities, they can also make decisions for the safety of their masters.
Some institutions maintain an in-house breeding program or only train dogs from a pool of selected dog breeds. Although you can train any dog breed to be a guide dog, some breeds are proven to be better suited for specific tasks.
Most guide dog institutions are non-profit and charge little to nothing for their canines. These organizations manage everything from dog breeding and retirement placement to training handlers (owners) on how to work with their service dogs.
These institutions don't just train dogs; they also care for the welfare of these helpful beasts and ensure that they are also taken care of until their retirement.
The Qualities to Look For in a Guide Dog
Guide dog schools frequently select German shepherds, labrador retrievers, and golden retrievers since these breeds are known for being bright, obedient, and friendly. However, despite the meticulous breeding, not every puppy from the mentioned breeds is chosen for the job.
Service dogs should have a variety of qualities, such as intelligence, obedience, good memory, awareness of their environment, openness to learning, and focus. A dog will be removed from the program if it shows signs of violence, anxiety, or hostility toward other animals and humans.
The Training Process
The puppies are trained and well taken care of by skilled puppy raisers. They are highly exposed to their environment and taught the fundamental commands to sit, stay, and walk politely on a leash.
If the puppy satisfies the guide dog requirements, it returns to guide dog school and undergoes a formal training program with the help of a guide dog trainer. It usually takes 14 months before a dog is fully assessed and accepted in a dog guide school. From the initial number of puppies that undergo early training, only half of them would make it to a dog guide school.
Training for guide dogs is required and takes about four months. Guide dogs are trained using a reward system similar to conventional obedience training to encourage positive behavior.
The Matching Process
A guide dog is prepared to be matched with its new master once it successfully completes its training. Before a guide dog is assigned to its new owner, the person must meet with the instructor and complete an application that evaluates their needs and way of living. Based on requirements and personality, a guide dog and handler are paired to ensure the success of the match.
Next, the handler will go through a training regimen to help them get to know their guide dog. When getting a guide dog, handlers must go through a four-week training course if it is their first dog. If a handler applies for a new guide dog, they would still need to complete another three weeks of training.
3 Things You Should Know About Guide Dogs
Guide Dog Awareness Month is in September, and it is fast approaching! To honor our little heroes with a big heart, there are three things that you should know about them so you can be extra sensitive to what they are trained for.
- Never pet a guide dog in a harness. Guide dogs are the guiding eyes of their handlers and help them tremendously! Although trained to avoid distractions, guide dogs should not be pet while wearing a harness because they might lose their focus. After all, they are still dogs, and being playful is in their DNA.
- Let them enjoy themselves. When they are not on a leash, guide dogs behave like other dogs that enjoy a lot of playing, running, and receiving attention from others. Let them rest and enjoy their true nature from time to time. Set regular play periods where they can roam free in your backyard but are still within reach in case of an emergency.
- Right matching is the key. There are several factors you’ll need to consider to ensure that the guide dog and its handler is a perfect match, such as lifestyle and walking speed. It’s important for both parties to be compatible with each other in order to quickly establish trust.
Guide Dogs at Your Service
From puppy raising through graduation, everyone who helps raise a guide dog gets to be a part of something incredible—and cute! Whether you nurture a puppy, train a young dog, or donate to a non-profit guide dog institution, you're assisting in the connection between these extraordinarily gifted dogs and physically-challenged individuals. They can have boundless, liberated lives with the help of a guide dog. Although training may be lengthy and time-consuming, the results can also be very promising.
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