Is there anything a dog can’t do? We’ve seen dogs help people in almost every capacity: saving them from fires, cheering up and emotionally supporting kids, and even functioning as a guides for people who can’t navigate themselves.
But how does a regular dog become a seeing-eye dog? We at Digital Doggy did some digging and found out!
First of all, not every dog is cut out to be a guide dog. But those that are selected to become seeing eye dogs are paired up with trainers. Guide dog trainers are dedicated to the task of producing, training and matching capable guide dogs with handlers who are blind. A guide dog’s purpose is to provide their handler with safe, secure, and independent mobility.
Guide dog trainers are experts in their fields and have undergone rigorous and extensive training. This training is mandatory and must be completed before these trainers even get their certificate. Once they are certified, they can start their practice. Since people will be depending on these dogs to see, it’s imperative that their trainers are top-notch.
Guide dogs are trained to be professionals. A puppy who plans to be a guide dog starts getting training when they’re just two months old! He or she is initially trained in the basics, like being able to identify different smells and sounds. It’s important to get this training in early so that this information is integrated into the pup’s brain while it’s still developing.
The puppy is brought into places where he or she will work in the coming years to get to know the area very well. The doggo is also taught to walk ahead of his or her handler. This way, the dog can develop a sense of awareness, and begins to understand that they are a guide for their human. At this point, dogs also learn the commands of sit, stay, and come. And all of this happens just in the first year of training!
After the puppy turns a year old, the next part of guide training begins. The pup will meet their trainer again for a refresher course, then jump right into some new routines! Each situation is different depending on the area, so this is where the training becomes specialized. One dog might be trained to understand sound cues from crosswalks, and another might learn how to navigate through a crowd. The guide trainer will then decide if a dog is ready to be handed off to the mobility instructor who instructs the pup on the last and final part of guide dog training.
During the last phase of training, the dog is rewarded not just with food, but with affection and love as well. Collar cues are given in the first part of the training. This cue is used by dog guide instructor if the pup makes mistakes and if the dog gets things right, he or she will be rewarded with praises and food (and love!)
After the final stage of dog guide training is complete, the instructor pairs up the dog with his or her new owner. The trainer visits the client on a regular basis to see how she or he is doing with the new guide dog. And that’s how a regular pup becomes a guide dog!