Guide Dog Selection and Training
A Guide Dog’s job is to guide someone who is vision impaired around obstacles and from one location to another. As the person’s safety is paramount, the criteria for selecting pups into the Guide Dog training program are extremely stringent.
Pups return from being raised by their volunteer puppy raisers to the Guide Dog Centre when they are about 14 months old. Over two weeks, our expert Guide Dog Instructors carefully assess every dog on several long walks. Prospective Guide Dogs must be:
- eager to work
- display good concentration
- and be able to control the temptation to be distracted by food and other animals.
Selected puppies undergo an intensive five-month program with a Guide Dog Instructor to learn the complex skills required for their new job. The Instructor’s job is to build each dog’s confidence and consistency, while observing their personality and tailoring training to suit their temperament. Training occurs through positive reinforcement, lots of pats, and food rewards.
As training progresses, the dogs learn to travel through confusing and crowded areas, such as shopping centres and busy city streets. In fact, experienced Guide Dogs can guide their handlers to a range of destinations. As you can imagine, this requires careful teaching so the dog learns each command in a complex sequence of events.
Despite the hard work involved, Guide Dogs have a rewarding job and of course when the harness comes off there’s plenty of downtime.
Guide Dog training basics
- Straight line travel: learning to walk straight to a kerb with the instructor introducing the command “To the kerb”.
- Right shoulder work: the dog learns to allow for extra space on their right, ensuring their handler is safe from oncoming obstacles.
- Formal turns: stopping on command and taking further directional instruction.
- Artificial obstacles: learning how to move around an obstacle AND to return to the straight line on which they were travelling.
- Traffic exercises: this builds awareness of traffic and how to be careful around vehicles, stationary or moving.
- Destinations: a dog learns to locate a door when a new destination is introduced.
- Public transport: the dogs are introduced to buses, trains and car travel helping them to learn what to do and what is expected.
The Guide Dogs Centre
It's no walk in the park teaching puppies to become Guide Dogs. It requires boundless energy, care and experience - not to mention a lot of space.
That's where the Guide Dogs Centre comes in. The centre is located at Glossodia, near Windsor in Sydney's west. This world-class facility features:
- Three kennel blocks which are filled with the latest creature comforts. Every dog has its own private kennel, with a total of 90 kennels available at the site.
- A 1.4 km training track that winds its way through the grounds.
- An onsite veterinary clinic that includes an operating theatre and digital x-ray machine
- Recreation areas where dogs can run free and socialise.
- A state-of-the-art breeding centre
How do I become a Guide Dog Instructor?
Contact us to enquire about becoming a Guide Dog instructor.