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Everything you always wanted to know about guide dog training

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Every dog ​​is special in its own way, whether it be barking the words “I love you”, taking the longest naps in the world, or helping the visually impaired get around. Guide dogs are particularly qualified puppies who have had months or even years of experience to prepare themselves for the care of their person – but what exactly is part of the training of guide dogs?

Training a service animal is different from training a pet and depends on the dog’s skills and behaviors, as well as the particular task assigned to it. There are hearing dogs, psychiatric service dogs, mobility aid dogs and of course guide dogs for those struggling with visual impairments. These are just a few types of tasks a trained puppy can perform. However, this article will focus specifically on guide dogs for the blind. How do you do it when such a great responsibility is on your paws?

How long does it take for a puppy to become a guide dog?

There are many steps between a puppy and his potential work as a guide dog. Not every puppy bred for service even reaches the socialization stage where they spend the first year of their life with a volunteer puppy breeder (dream job alert!) Who teaches them basic obedience. According to information from industries for the blind and visually impaired (IBVI) Only 50% of the puppies take part in formal trainingwhich starts around 15 months of age. Of those who make it, the graduation rate for this program is around 72%.

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How are guide dogs trained?

Guide Dogs of America, a premier service dog rearing and training program, trains their pups with a balance of positive reinforcement (including clicker training) and canine decision making. Early training consists of structured obedience, during which the dogs learn the basics of leading the visually impaired, including:

  • Travel safely and securely from one destination to the next
  • Stop when the altitude changes
  • Avoid obstacles on your way

Later training means more independence for the dog so that he can practice making decisions in real time. When accompanying their human, guide dogs must make split-second decisions to ensure everyone’s safety. Hence, trainers are always on hand to reinforce a dog’s good decision and turn it away from the bad. Once a guide dog finds its perfect fit, it will train for another month with its new owner, officially known as the dog handler.

Who trains guide dogs for the blind?

The person who raises a guide dog puppy is usually not the same as the one who trains them. After they have spent their puppy years learning social cues and basic obedience to the volunteer who raised them, they will attend the official guide dog school. This training takes place in the organization that later connects them with their future families.

According to Seeing eyeAs a leading non-profit organization for guide dogs for the blind, trainers have not only graduated from college but also completed three years of on-the-job learning. Trainers must be patient, physically fit, and attuned to the dog’s body language and behavior.

How can you become a guide dog trainer?

If you are interested in training guide dogs for the visually impaired, there are numerous resources available to help you find out more. These are just a few of the steps mentioned by to give you an idea of ​​how you can work your way up Guide dogs of America: complete a three-year “training” on site and meet everyone International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) standardsCompletion of additional company training and assessment and completion of annual refresher workshops to keep knowledge current.

What you should know before volunteering as a guide dog trainer

If you are considering serving as a guide dog trainer you should be aware of the time and effort that will be required before you can begin. To meet the standards of both the IGDF and the company you work with, you may need to earn certain certifications or go back to school. It is also important that you are in good health for a job like this, as you will deal with large animals in a variety of situations, including bad weather and stressful moments.

Many prefer to volunteer to raise a guide dog puppy, which in itself is a huge commitment. Not only can you spend a year with a furry floppy baby, but you can change someone’s life too! To raise a puppy, you must regularly attend meetings and outings with the other puppies to be accountable and accustom the dog to unusual situations.

Everyone involved in raising a guide dog, from puppy age to graduation, becomes part of something amazing – and adorable! Whether you’re raising a puppy, training a puppy, or donating to a nonprofit, you’re helping connect those super talented canines with people who, with the help of a dog, can lead a limitless, free life. The workout may be extensive and time consuming, but the benefits are oh so nice.

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