Training for guide dogs for the blind
The KNGF has successfully trained guide dogs for many years. At first they were only guide dogs, but nowadays they also train dogs for children with autism. Obviously the dogs have a long way to go before they are fully guide dogs. In this article you can read the life course of guide dogs.
About 15 to 18 litters are bred for the KNGF every year. Breeding is an important part of producing a suitable guide dog for the blind. There are a number of points to consider:
- The character of the parents
- The breed -> mainly Labradors, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers
- Hereditary Disorders
The mother dogs are from breeding host families, they live there all their lives. The puppies themselves are monitored from an early age to see if they are suitable. During tests, they look for different behaviors such as:
- Is he dominant?
- Is it easy to influence?
- Is he startled quickly?
- What does he allow?
For example, they drop a pan, the dog reacts shocked and if he stays away, he is too anxious. If the puppy does not respond at all, he is again too emotionless. Furthermore, the health of the dog is also assessed by various veterinarians. So with these tests, there is a chance that a puppy cannot continue for training.
The puppies grow up in a homely atmosphere. They immediately encounter things that occur in every living room so that they are socialized faster than when they are born in a kennel. After 7 to 8 weeks, the puppy will go to another foster family.
From 3 to 12 weeks the puppy is in his socialization phase, in which he will quickly get used to strange things. The intention is therefore that the foster family acquaints the dog with as many things as possible. However, they are not allowed to come into contact with people on the street. The foster family will therefore be allowed to ensure that the puppy is not cuddled. This way the dogs learn that they are not allowed to demand attention from people so that the dogs are not distracted during their work.
At 4 months the puppy gets his harness on for the first time. He will have to learn to work with armor and without armor he can do whatever he wants. The foster family learns all this in the weekly training where they have to go with the puppy.
After about 14 months, the foster family must say goodbye to their puppy. He goes back to the guide school for the blind. Here the dog is taught all the tricks of the trade within 8 months. Here too there are a lot of dogs that will lose weight. The training is therefore very difficult, but the dog cannot afford mistakes in the daily life that awaits him. Some of the things a dog learns are:
- Estimate height
- See zebra trails
- Indicate if the road is broken
The dog must also learn to think consciously for itself. Suppose the boss gives the order to cross, but the street is broken open. Then the dog really has to stand still and indicate that it is not possible. This is very difficult as dogs also learn to listen to commands. The life of a guide dog is therefore not easy, it is often not possible to play with other dogs, he must not come into contact with people and he must constantly pay attention to it. However, all of this is only true when he is wearing his armor.
His new boss
When he has finished his training, a suitable owner will be found for him. A number of different things are considered:
- Does it click?
- Are they at the same pace?
- Is the dog suitable for that visual handicap?
Then the suitable owner is invited to come to the school. The person stays here until he / she knows everything about the care and until he / she has built a bond with the dog. After all, the dog has to listen to its new owner. After about 3 weeks the dog can go home. The trainer will come by a number of times to help and then things should go fine together.
Dogs that do not complete the training
Normally, you can visit the KNGF website for an ex-guide dog or a dog that has been rejected. However, the request is so large that it has been temporarily stopped until part of the waiting list has been completed. So there are dogs that have been rejected during the training, but there are also older dogs to adopt. The guide dogs retire at the age of 9. The guide dogs are so popular because:
- They are brought up very well
- They are medically okay
- Much is known about the character
Of course the puppy foster family has priority if their temporary puppy is rejected.