From puppy to guide dog
Training a puppy to become a guide dog takes some time. It all starts with the selected puppy foster homes where the puppies are housed. The family prepares the young dog for his training at KNGF Guide Dogs, where he is trained to be a reliable, obedient guide dog.
The first year
The KNGF Guide Dogs organization sounds familiar to most of them. The foundation’s mission is to give as many people with disabilities as possible a better life by means of a specially trained dog. KNGF does this by breeding puppies themselves, which are then placed with selected puppy foster families. About 170 puppies are born every year. The family educates the young dog to be a stable, obedient and happy dog for a year, based on three important tasks:
- Love: to let the puppy grow up into a stable, young dog
- Education: teaching good dog manners and basic commands (such as “sit”, “paw” and “basket”)
- Social environment: introduce the puppy to the world around him, so that he will not be surprised anymore (think of busy streets, trains and fireworks)
The puppy foster family is certainly not alone. Consultants from KNGF Guide Dogs regularly visit and accompany the families. Experience with raising dogs is therefore not necessary, but motivation is. Anyone can offer themselves as a foster family, but the foundation maintains a strict selection. KNGF Guide Dogs provides each family with the same equipment and manual. As a result, all guide dogs are trained in exactly the same way and are provided with the same basket, comb, brush, whistle, food and water bowls, leash and collar.
In principle, the dog should not be alone at home during its training year. He should not be alone more than twice a week, up to two hours a day. The foster family does not receive any compensation. Feed and vet costs are reimbursed.
At the age of 16 months it is time to start training at the KNGF Guide Dog School in Amstelveen. The training takes approximately six to eight months. The owner and dog get to know each other at an early stage to see if there is a click. It is important that the guide dog will soon lead its owner safely on the street. For example, he is taught to keep one meter of space and two meters in height on both the left and right. This makes ?? the owner ?? safely guided past obstacles. You should never pet an assistance dog. This is to prevent the dog from losing concentration in front of its owner.
The animal learns commands to look up certain things for its owner. Such as doors, pedestrian crossings, side streets and a seat on the train. When entering a staircase, the service dog sends its blind owner to the handrail. The dog is also taught to block his owner when he wants to commit a dangerous situation (slope refusal). A difficult task, since the animal is set to do what is asked of it. When entering the sidewalks, the dog stops to indicate that an entry or exit is approaching. Besides, it’s not that he knows the way. The visually impaired is the one who sends the dog.
When the guidance gear is under control, the final instruction follows. Here owner and dog get to know each other better under supervision. The walking pace must be coordinated, the characters must match and the dog must be able to handle the desired work. The aspiring guide dog user learns to handle the dog in a safe, responsible manner. In addition to practical lessons, he also receives theory about dog behavior and grooming. After a few weeks, the dog and owner may continue to practice at home under the guidance of an instructor. Is the dog completely obedient afterwards? Then he is appointed a true guide dog.
The guide dog will remain in service for approximately nine years, after which it may retire. It is absolutely not the case that dogs suffer from the heavy work. They are happy to do it. KNGF Guide Dogs ensures that retired guide dogs can sit out their well-deserved old age with adoptive families.