Monday, September 22, 2014

Guide Dog Training

It's National Guide Dog Month so my September posts are about blind people and guide dogs. If you know something about obedience training, you might think training guide dogs is counter-intuitive.

Watching blind travelers confidently make their way through busy city traffic, many people assume that dog is leading person. But the cornerstone of guide work is that the dog, trained to judge speed and distance of moving vehicles, will, when necessary, disobey the human partner’s command, and signal through the rigid harness that it’s unsafe to go forward. 
Traffic Training
The handler not only directs the dog, but supports decisions the dog makes, even when the animal disobeys. Taught to allow for the person’s height and width, the dog can make a decision to walk around or under obstacles, or stop to ask for input as if to say, “Here is an overturned garbage can. Which way would you like to go?” In addition, dogs learn to safely maneuver stairs, elevators, escalators, public transportation and are trained to stop for hazardous overhanging obstacles, including things like scaffolding, metal stairs, sagging awnings and tree limbs.

Paralympic equestrian Sue-Ellen Lovett
with her guide dog (Sydney Daily Telegraph)
To a great extent, guide dogs are bred for a personality that makes them more like each other than they are to others of their breed. They may look different, but they’ve been bred and selected by guide dog schools to be friendly, loyal and loving, with a desire to serve and please. Guide dogs have a profound sense of responsibility, a good disposition, a willingness to do what is asked or required. They lack volatility, are not shy or fearful, with high degree of work ethic.  Hence the reason that many are called and few are chosen. 
Of the three most commonly used breeds, 
success generally breaks down like this:
Labs = 60%
Goldens = 20%
GSD= 10% or less 

Doodles, developed first by Australia's guide dog school, were not the hypo-allergenic panacea guide dog schools hoped for. Read a Sydney Morning Herald opinion piece on why.

Read my post about the history of guide dogs.  It has some very cool vintage photos.

1 comment:

  1. If I could afford a dog in addition to my cat, an could afford to get out more (no car), I'd love to acquire a potential therapy dog to take to nursing homes, hospitals, rehab centers, Ronald McDonald houses, etc. Ms. Brackman, I tried to email you at the addy listed below your book and got it back as undeliverble. Are you on Facebook and if so, with what specific name. I also could not view the sample pages as my tablet does not support the Acrobt suite of products. Don't want to put my email address in open post. Will check back for response. Natalie