April 24 – Guide Dogs Day

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Guide Dogs are just the worst aren’t they? You see them in the street, looking all adorable, helping those with terrible eyesight…being the cutest things in all of God’s green goodness…and you have to resist the almost uncontrollable urge to stop and pat it and pick it up (meanwhile the blind person they were leading around gets hit by oncoming traffic while you essentially petted their eyes).

Guide dogs are important – they have a hugely positive impact on the lives of those they are a companion to. Training a guide dog with be such a wonderful companion and aid takes a long time and countless efforts. Guide dog puppies go out to volunteer homes until they are are about 14 months old. These people, the puppy raisers, do the invaluable job of helping the puppy grow up to be friendly, obedient and sociable. It’s a huge commitment, and to be able to do such a thing the organisation says that you must be home for most of the day as the puppy cannot be left alone for more than 4 hours at a time and that you must walk your puppy everyday and attend training and socialisation days.

After their time in the puppy raisers home, the dogs have to undertake a rigorous assessment to determine whether or not they will be suitable guide dogs. If they are found to be appropriate they then undergo intense training for 5 montha . The Guide Dogs Australia website lists skills including:

  • Walking in a straight line without sniffing.
  • Walking on the left-hand side slightly ahead of the trainer.
  • Stopping at all kerbs.
  • Waiting for a command before crossing roads.
  • Stopping at the top and bottom of stairs.
  • Avoiding obstacles at head height.
  • Avoiding spaces too narrow for a person and a dog to walk through side by side.
  • Boarding and travelling on all forms of public transport.
  • Taking the trainer to a lift.
  • Laying quietly for some time, particularly at a workplace or in restaurants.
  • Refusing commands that may lead the trainer into danger – for example, if the trainer instructs the Guide Dog to walk them into a hole, the dog should refuse to walk forward when commanded.

A hard ask however once the training is complete the guide dog can look forward to an interesting life that is sure to be adventurous and challenging.  Even if it is found they aren’t suitable, the hard work raising them is certainly not put to waste, as they have the opportunity to become a Pets As Therapy dog. This means that they will be given to someone for companionship that they may otherwise lack due to disadvantages such a disability, illness, isolation or age. It’s happiness all round. Happy Guide Dogs Day!

~ Darcie Rae

Guide Dogs Website: http://www.guidedogs.com.au/home

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