Training the Dog

The dogs return to the training centre at approximately 12 to 18 months depending on the breed.

They spend 2 weeks in the Approval Block to check for internal and external parasites and then they are allocated to a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor who does the advanced training and final polishing of the dog’s training.

It need not be a super dog as regards looks, but it must possess the correct temperament, intelligence and physical requirements for the work. Guide dogs are trained to respond to commands such as “right”, “left”, ”forward” and “back”.

They are trained to avoid obstacles and to watch for traffic when crossing roads. As the blind person’s life may depend on the quality of the dog’s work, this must be of the highest standard.

The dogs start with advanced obedience training and are taught to walk in a straight line, in the correct position with the proper tension on the lead. All commands tend to be one word and the training is made enjoyable to keep the dog’s willingness at a high level.

Early work is done at the Training Centre and in quiet areas using long straight walks. As the training progresses it slowly moves to busier and busier areas, giving the dog as much experience as possible.

Obstacle work is of prime importance with the dog being taught to go around all obstacles, leaving enough space for the blind person to negotiate the obstacle safely. Overhead obstacles always present a problem and the dog is taught to identify them up to a height of around 2½ metres.

During its training the dog’s concentration is improved, learning to ignore other dogs, people and children.

Traffic work is one of the most important aspects of the guide dog’s work as the safety of the blind person is at stake. The dog is taught to recognise a moving car as a danger to itself and its handler. Over a number of training sessions and by experiencing everyday traffic conditions it learns to indicate to its handler when it is safe to cross a road or intelligently disobey a command should the given command put the guide dog owner in danger.