The Guide Dog Team
Each Guide Dog Team has a very special bond. They build their working relationship through trust, loyalty and love for one another. It is important to realise that Guide Dogs have limitations and it’s the combination of both the handler’s and Guide Dog’s skills that allows for safe and successful travel.
Dogs that successfully complete the rigorous Guide Dog training program are matched with a potential handler. This is an important process, with our Orientation and Mobility Instructors ensuring that the dog is well-suited to the person’s specific lifestyle and travel needs.
Once matched, the new team needs to build trust and establish a bond, as well as learn how to travel together. The pair undergoes five weeks of intensive training with an experienced instructor. As the working bond grows, the complexity of the environments increases. The handler learns the commands for directing the dog, while the dog learns its handler’s travel routes. Over time, the dog learns how to guide its handler to an increasing number of destinations.
The handler’s responsibilities
Once training has been successfully completed, handlers are wholly responsible for the care and well-being of their Guide Dog. This includes making sure that their Guide Dog has plenty of play and downtime to relax and just be a dog!
Once a Guide Dog begins to show signs of ageing such as slowing down, arthritis or other medical issues, it is time for the handler to decide if the dog should be retired, and if so where it will spend its twilight years.
In many cases these dogs stay with their handler’s family as a pet. If this is not feasible they are placed with another suitable family or individual who has expressed an interest in taking care of these hard working dogs in their twilight years. In fact we have a very long waiting list of people and families who would love to look after a retired Guide Dog.
Sue-Ellen and her Guide Dog Prada are inseparable.