On several occasions I've seen a Guide Dog at work.
I've been impressed by their work (especially since my labradors were always a tad bit less obedient) and I've been really moved by the trusting relationships they have with their vision impaired owners.
I decided to find out a bit more on this topic and Guide Dogs NSW/ACT helped me find the answers to my questions.
Which dogs are used?
In Australia mainly Labradors and Golden Retrievers are used for guide dogs. These breeds are chosen for their intelligence and friendly & willing temperaments. They also come in all shapes and sizes, just like the people who will use them.
Instinctively I just want to touch that friendly dog. Can I pat it?
No. If a Guide Dog is wearing a harness it is working. Even if the dog is sitting or lying down it is important not to pat or talk to the dog. If you pat a Guide Dog it might not be able to concentrate on keeping the blind person safe. However, feel free to talk to the person using the Guide Dog.
How does a puppy become a 'guide dog'?
It takes nearly two years to develop a playful pup into a responsible Guide Dog.
New puppies arrive at the Guide Dogs Centre at the age of approximately eight weeks.
The veterinarian checks that the new recruits are confident, responsive and healthy - the qualities of a successful Guide Dog.
The pups are then placed with families that have been specially selected by Guide Dogs staff. We call them "puppy raisers". Over the next 12 months, these families will provide the pups with basic social skills, obedience and lots of fun! The pups will visit places they'll later encounter as Guide Dogs, and experience all the sights, sounds and - most importantly for any dog - smells of the outside world.
Guide Dog puppies return to the Guide Dog Centre to begin intensive training at the age of about 14 months. Puppies that are selected to become Guide Dogs undergo an intensive five-month program to learn the complex skills required for their new job.
Some tasks - for instance, stopping at kerbs and staircases - are taught through repetition. Other tasks, such as safely crossing the road, require intensive training. And it takes a well-trained dog to handle the unexpected, like a car reversing from a driveway.
As training progresses, Guide Dogs learn to travel through confusing and crowded areas, such as shopping centres and busy city streets.
Dogs that successfully complete the rigorous training program are matched with a potential client. Then the centre has to make sure that the dog is well-suited to the client's specific lifestyle and travel needs.
What happens to the dogs that don't complete the training program because they turn out to be unsuitable for guiding work?
Puppies that are unsuitable may become Pets As Therapy dogs - much-loved companions for people who may be disadvantaged due to age, illness or disability. A dog that is unsuitable for either role is offered to its puppy raisers as a pet.
Who are the 'puppy raisers'?
Puppy raisers come from all walks of life. They range from dog lovers who wish to care for a dog but can't provide lifelong care, to families learning to raise a dog before having their own pet.
Puppy raisers are responsible for feeding, grooming and exercising their pups daily, along with basic obedience, house-training, and visits to the vet when needed. While this training is important, the dogs are first and foremost puppies - so plenty of games and tummy scratches are also required!
Can I become a puppy raiser?
Every state has slightly different puppy raiser requirements.
To become a Puppy Raiser in NSWor ACT you must:
- Be home for most of the day; your puppy must not be left alone for more than three hours at a time without supervision and human company.
- Walk your puppy each day.
- Allow your puppy to sleep and spend time indoors.
- Have a yard with dog-proof fencing.
- Have access to a car to transport your puppy.
- Be available to attend training at puppy pre-School days and socialisation days.
- Live in the Sydney area - this is to ensure our Puppy Raising team can easily travel to make regular inspections.
Do you want to know more?
http://www.guidedogs.com.au NSW / ACT
http://www.guidedogs.org.au/ SA / NT
Thanks to Guide Dogs NSW / ACT for sharing their information