New Guide Dog Services Manager, Paul Adrian with a blonde Guide Dog in harness

Familiar face returns to lead centre

Developing a strong canine welfare program based on performance science at Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is the number one priority for new Guide Dog Services Manager, Paul Adrian.

Stepping into the role at the beginning of 2016, Paul is a familiar face at the Guide Dog Centre in western Sydney, having taught and mentored a number of instructors there during a long and varied career in the industry.

In 1984, Paul applied for a cadetship as a Guide Dog Trainer with Guide Dogs Victoria and out of 173 applicants was one of two successful candidates.

After completing his cadetship, Paul became the sole instructor in Tasmania, before returning to Guide Dogs Victoria to look after local clients, but it was the next chapter of his career that has shaped his thinking the most.

In 2001, an opportunity to help develop a Guide Dog organisation in Israel came up. “I was young and didn’t think for a moment about safety or security issues, there was a free airfare and I understood that most Israeli people spoke English,” he said.

It wasn’t until he arrived and began working in the hot conditions, six days a week, that reality set in. “The school was operating out of a rented house with dogs stacked up out the back and there was a language barrier as the dogs needed to be taught commands in Hebrew,” he said. Paul quickly learnt these techniques and remembers the time as “a great learning” experience.

When an opportunity arose to return to Victoria as the Guide Dogs Centre Manager he headed back to his old stomping ground, this time with years of life and practical experience under his belt.

“I witnessed a number of the initiatives I implemented in Victoria gain momentum and so when the job arose as Guide Dog Services Manager for NSW/ACT I put my hat in the ring,” Paul said. “I know the team, I know the site and I feel like I have achieved a lot in my career,” he said.

Paul hopes to continue to drive the organisation forward through his understanding of how to get the best performance out of future Guide Dogs through positive reinforcement and a focus on welfare. “As an industry I believe we need to be constantly changing our training techniques, otherwise we are at risk of being left behind in contemporary thinking,” he said.

He believes that activities informed by canine performance science are measurable. “We should see a decline in stress-related illness, preventable illness such as Kennel Cough and inappropriate social behaviour,” Mr Adrian said. “This will lead to better outcomes for the organisation with higher utilisation rates, improved client satisfaction and improved employee engagement.”

Paul said his ambition to move from a more traditional training model to a science based one is an effort to promote the modernisation of the industry, which has education at its core.

Mr Adrian, who is an International Guide Dog Federation Assessor, said he was looking forward to 2016 and the challenges of running the Guide Dogs Centre.

“Every interaction with each dog should be seen as a learning opportunity for the dog, from the moment it is born to the time with the Puppy Raiser, staff, volunteers and clients. Everyone who comes into contact with that animal can value add. It is not just about the time the dog spends with the Guide Dog Instructor.”