By Jessica Woods
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the first two years of a guide dog’s training. I would now like to continue that story by telling you about a dog’s professional training and how it is matched with its owner.
When a puppy raiser brings a dog back to the school, it is brought in to the receiving Kennel. This is done to help the dog transition from being in a kennel by itself to sharing it with a few others. Also during this time, the kennel staff are observing the dog’s behavior. They are watching for any signs of distress or aggression toward other dogs.
After this, the first thing a dog must pass is a medical examination. A vet is looking for any potential medical issues that could hinder its career as a guide dog. If none are found, the dog moves on to a professional trainer. If a problem is found the dog is most likely removed from the program and goes to a good home. In many cases, the puppy raiser will get the dog back as a pet. But if they can not take the dog, Southeastern will adopt it out into a good home.
At this time, the dog already knows basic obedience and simple find commands. Now it is up to the trainer to enhance these skills and to expand the dog’s knowledge. For instance, a dog must learn how to navigate in traffic. It must be able to cross a busy highway without any problems. In addition, the dog is taught to disobey its owner if there is danger in the area. An example would be if the owner tells the dog to cross the street and a car is coming. The dog is taught to disobey that command and stay where it is or back up. Since Bristol has saved my life on a few occasions, I know how important this skill is.
The trainers take the dogs into many different areas. They have to learn how to navigate the many different surroundings that its owner might put it in. Even though I don’t use escalators that much, Bristol was taught how to do it. Bristol also knows how to handle a revolving door if we were to encounter one. In addition, the dog is also taught to look for overhanging objects and other things that might endanger its owner.
This process can take up to a few months or maybe even a year. It really depends on the dog. Once they pass all the training, it is ready to be matched with a blind person. This could only take a little while or it could take longer. It depends on if someone comes in that would be a good match for the dog.
Matching a dog with its owner has a few steps to it. The trainers evaluate the people that are coming in for a dog. They are considering the rate at which a person walks, the person’s lifestyle and place of residence, and the person’s personality. The trainer then finds a dog that most closely fits the person’s life and personality. Once the dog has been matched and given to the person, the training for the person begins.