-Is that a rescue puppy?
-Is that dog for adoption?
-Awww is that your dog?
-Can I come see your dog?
The dog under the desk is “Silky”. She is a female golden retriever and she is in training. She is well behaved because one day that may become her job. She is in training to be a guide dog for the blind.
What is a guide dog?
A guide dog is just that, a dog who guides a person with visual impairment. One does not have to be fully blind to get a guide dog, but they must be deemed legally blind to get one.
How do you train a guide dog puppy?
Training a guide dog puppy is a lot of work. It is a 24-hour a day job. In my opinion it’s like having a child with you everywhere you go. These puppies are trained with basic obedience commands like: sit, stay, down, come. They are also socialized from very young puppies to be able to stay calm in public places. We also teach them calm behavior around situations where dogs are not usually accustomed, like around emergency vehicles. Not only is the public behavior important but the at home behavior is just as important. A blind person has to trust that their dog is not snatching food off the counters, eating objects that shouldn’t be eaten, or getting into mischief. It is the job of the puppy raiser to teach the puppy proper behavior in the home.
Is it hard to give them up?
This is the question everyone asks and the answer is yes! We keep our puppies for 12-15 months. You watch them grow from little tiny puppy kisses, to floppy awkward teenagers, to being prepared adults ready for formal training. You spend a whole year with them at your side all the time. It is very hard to give them up. But if you are like me, the end result is very rewarding. If you have every met a visually impaired person partnered with a dog, ask them what it is like. They usually will tell you it is life-changing. They are able to gain independence with their dogs. They have a relationship to their dogs that no other person can understand. That all in itself is rewarding and makes the process of giving them up a little easier. Plus most of us get a new puppy at the same time to help us cope!
What happens after you give them up?
Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc is an organization with two campuses. They are located in San Rafael, CA and Boring, OR. When your puppy is done with its raising in your home, they are transported back to one of those campuses. When they get back they are evaluated for their breeding department if they are not already spayed/neutered. If they are chosen for a breeding dog they become happy breeders to help establish more successful puppies to be trained. If they do not pass the breeding requirements they are then spayed/neutered. From there they go through a medical evaluation. They are checked in depth from head to tail. They must pass everything to be a guide dog. If they do not pass something they are then career changed (explained later). If they go through all medical evaluations and pass, they are then placed into training. There are 8 phases of training where they learn to become guides. They learn to watch out for any hazards (above, below, to the sides). Once they have passed all 8 phases they then are partnered with a visually impaired person and attend a training class for both the person and the dog. If all works out they then graduate and go home with their new partner.
What is a career-changed dog?
These puppies are meant for a certain career. If they don’t become guide dogs they are then called career changed. This means they take a different course in life. They may become a pet to their raiser or another loving family. They can also be scouted by different organizations of service dogs like diabetic alerting dogs, therapy dogs or search and rescue dogs.
How can I help?
Guide Dogs for the Blind Inc. is a non-profit 501©3 corporation that survives solely on the donations from individuals and companies. Guide Dogs for the Blind Inc provides their working dogs free of charge. They also provide vet services for all dogs in training and working. There are many ways you can help. You can provide monetary donations. You can volunteer at the campuses or you can volunteer in the city you live in. Here in Phoenix there is a guide dog raising club that can use volunteers to help raise puppies, to puppy sit those in training and to help do any types of help for events and public awareness.
So what about that dog under the desk?
“Silky” is in her puppy raising phase. She will be with me for approximately another 6-9 months (Dec. ’13-Mar ’14). While she is here you can do your part to help her training by not talking to her or trying to get her excited. She is a golden retriever and would love to be in your lap but for her training she must learn to behave quietly in any environment. You may ask me questions in regards to her but allow her to remain calm. This way she does not have to get in trouble!
If you have any additional questions you can ask me or check out www.guidedogs.com
Written by: Becky Wolfe -Reception