After a dog reaches 13-18 months, they are then returned to Guiding Eyes for an In For Training test or IFT test. This test provides information on how well the dog handles stress without a familiar person to support them. A dog who is able to pass their IFT shows that they are adaptable to different situations, and are confident and relaxed even though they are in an unfamiliar environment. If a dog doesn’t so well on their IFT, as well as if they have had a history of consistent insecurities or poor adaptability with their raisers, they are usually released at this point. Other dogs that pass and show promise are often either re-evaluated or start with the training program. Other dogs will join the Guiding Eyes breeding colony, and become parents to future generations of Guiding Eyes dogs.
It takes roughly 4 months to train a guide dog with an additional month to train the new owner with the dog. During this time, the dog increases his/her command vocabulary from the basic “come”, “sit”, “stay” that they learned with their raiser to more advanced commands such as “find the crossing” and “find the door”. The reason for this type of training is for the dog to be able to use his/her initiative instead of direct obedience. Peel, B. W. (1975). The training of guide dogs for the blind. Guiding Eyes does not want dogs that obey no matter what. They want dogs that obey, as long as it keeps both the owner and the dog out of danger. Most of the formal training is done in the natural environment like quiet suburb as well as busy streets and rural areas. The only artificial methods of training involve obstacles and traffic work. The dog learns how to travel to the left and to the right of the object with a preference that the unit (dog and handler) travel to the right so that the dog is between the obstacle and the owner. At this point of training, the dog is in a full harness. Peel, B. W. (1975). The training of guide dogs for the blind.
In addition to working on obstacles, there is also traffic work, which tends to be the most complicated part of the dog’s training. One of the main reasons for this is because at this point, the dog needs to learn how to disobey a command if it is unsafe to follow the instructions it is given. First of all, a dog learns to stop at all intersections. The handler then listens whether it is safe to cross or not before giving the command. However, if a car is coming, the dog will disobey the command and wait for the road to be clear before crossing. To ensure that the training is complete, the handler will often go through the process with the dog with a blindfold on to make sure that the dog is really ready for their new handler. Peel, B. W. (1975). The training of guide dogs for the blind.
Matching a guide dog to a blind person is arguably the most important part of the entire process. Any blind person can apply for the course; however, they receive an in-depth home interview and then are carefully evaluated based on their physical abilities and personalities before being matched with a dog. The guide dogs and students then meet and spend 26 days at the Yorktown Heights training facility learning to work safely with each other. The 4 month process the dogs just went through is pretty much repeated, but at a faster pace (i.e. 26 days). At the conclusion of this training, a graduation ceremony is held in celebration of the new partnerships and puppy raisers get to see their dogs become full-fledged guide dogs. After graduation, Guiding Eyes doesn’t just desert the new pair. Instructors provide continuous follow-up services to graduates of Guiding Eyes for the Blind in order to provide assistance, suggestions and general support as required. The average working life of a dog is 8-10 years, and Guiding Eyes makes sure that all retired dogs are placed into loving homes – often times with the original raiser.
Read more about this topic: Guiding Eyes For The Blind
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