International Guide Dog Day recently took place on April 27th. This day honors all of the amazing things that guide dogs do for humans who are in need of their assistance. Have you ever wondered what type of training dogs must receive to become certified guide dogs? Or have you thought about what exactly these dogs do for the people they are guiding? We are going to answer these two questions for you to give you a better understanding of just how special these dogs truly are every day of the year!
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Before a dog can train to become a guide dog, he/she must be between 13 to 15 months old. Until a dog reaches this age, volunteers raise the puppies in their own homes before returning the dogs to the guide school. Once they hit this age, dogs are trained on how to guide humans through various obstacles. Guide schools use positive reinforcement methods such as clicker training, physical and verbal affection, and food rewards to help motivate the dogs through their training. Besides their basic duties, trainers teach dogs how to act in emergency situations. Training typically takes between two to three months.
Once a guide dog is officially trained and ready for service, the dog should be able to lead a person in a straight line from point A to B. They are trained to stop at changes in elevation, such as curbs and stairs. Guide dogs are also trained to stop for overhead obstacles as well as obstacles in their paths. The only things guide dogs cannot do that a human typically would are read street signs and determine completely new paths. Instead, dogs take cues from humans on where to go and when to cross the street.
After this initial training is complete, dogs are paired up with a person to assist. It is important that the dog and human are compatible to one another in how they communicate and that they have complementary personalities. To ensure that it is a right fit, the pair goes through a two-week training session together in which they are tested in real life situations. Once the school has determined that the pair is a perfect match, the dog can graduate from guide school and begin its work in the real world.
We are so grateful to these wonderful service dogs every day!
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