Guide Dog Centre gets an upgrade
Major upgrade to training centre aims to lift Guide Dog performance
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has upgraded the kennels at the Guide Dogs Centre in Glossodia in a move towards a more holistic view of canine welfare.
Made possible through generous donations from supporters, this is the centre's first major renovation since opening its doors in May 2000.
Guide Dogs Services Manager, Paul Adrian, said the upgrade reflects a modern view of welfare and an organisational focus on performance science.
"While the traditional view of animal welfare focused on the prevention of pain or discomfort, the modern view is much more about how we can actively enhance enjoyment for the animal," Mr Adrian said.
"By creating a better environment for both dogs and staff, as an organisation we will become more effective in producing not just Guide Dogs, but Guide Dogs that perform at the peak of their ability."
Mr Adrian said that this link between welfare and performance is parallel with how the public view professional athletes.
"Just like athletes, if you provide a dog with the right diet, the right exercise, and a good environment to put them in the right state of mind, you will end up with the best possible dog. It is a much more holistic view," he said.
Mr Adrian said the kennel interiors have been remodelled in order to ease each dog's transition from living in a home environment with a Puppy Raiser to living at the Guide Dogs Centre where they undergo five months of intensive training.
Puppy Raisers look after pups from when they are eight weeks old to about 14 months old, teaching them basic obedience and social skills and introducing them to the sights, sounds and smells they are likely to encounter as a working Guide Dog.
"Inside the kennels, all the high walls have been removed so that the dogs can see in all directions. We also now have the capacity to comfortably house dogs in pairs, which is good from a social interaction point of view," Mr Adrian said.
"The purpose of these modifications is to make the kennels as home-like as possible, in terms of both appearance and functionality from a dog's point of view."
"By making the environment friendlier for dogs we're making it friendlier for the staff as well. This brings humans into the space, which increases human and dog interaction."
In addition to making the layout of the kennels more open plan, Mr Adrian said external fencing works will be put in place so that additional enrichment areas are directly accessible.
"From the kennels, the dogs will be able to access a variety of garden environments, sandpits, and play areas with lots of toys, as well as spaces for them to be alone if they chose to be," he said.
"Dogs are sentient animals, they experience pleasure, and the best welfare is achieved through providing greater opportunities for stimulation."
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT will breed and raise close to 170 puppies at the Guide Dogs Centre this year. Further site developments are planned to be complete by the end of the year.
It costs more than $35,000 to breed, raise and train one Guide Dog, which are then provided at no cost to a person who is blind or vision impaired to enable them to live independent lives.
As Guide Dogs NSW/ACT receives less than 2% of its funding needs from the government, it is financially dependent on the generosity of the community to meet the growing demand for services. As such, the Guide Dog Centre upgrades would not have been possible without the generous donations from supporters.
Every day 28 Australians are diagnosed with uncorrectable vision loss, including nine who become blind.
About the Guide Dog Centre
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT's breeding and training centre is located at Glossodia, about one hour from Sydney's CBD. The centre is built on 25 acres and features three climate-controlled kennel blocks that provide accommodation for up to 90 dogs in training, as well as a well-equipped veterinary surgery. There are also many outdoor fenced runs.
While most Guide Dog training occurs in real-life situations, the training track at the Guide Dog Centre is the first step for new trainees. It's also ideal for reinforcing the dogs' training in specific areas or to improve their concentration if necessary.
The track incorporates:
- Seven different ground surfaces: concrete, mulch, gravel, sandstone, bitumen, decomposed granite and washed aggregate.
- Bridges, traffic barriers, manholes, textured grids and temporary construction paths - so the dogs learn to guide people safely around obstacles of different shapes and sizes.
- Landmarks such as telephone kiosks, bus stops, traffic lights and crossings.
1n 2014/15, 51 Guide Dogs completed their training program at the Guide Dog Centre and were deemed ready to be placed with clients.