0-8 Weeks: Puppy Breeding
At Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, we select only our best dogs with sound temperaments to be part of our breeding program so that our puppies will have the best chance of being suited for a life as a Guide Dog. Training starts as soon as the dog can walk but they spend most of their early days sleeping or playing.
8 Weeks: Off to a New Home
When the puppy reaches around eight weeks of age, they are picked up from the Guide Dogs Centre by their volunteer Puppy Raisers and will live with them for the next 12 months. Introducing sights, sounds and obstacles that a Guide Dog may encounter later in life is the key task for Puppy Raisers. Puppy Raising is a rewarding experience that will help change the life of someone with sight loss.
10-12 Weeks: School Begins
At 10-12 weeks puppies are now out and about and attending Puppy Pre-school. Puppies start to learn important commands such as sit, stay and drop as well as socialising with other dogs. Puppy Raisers are supported by a dedicated Guide Dogs Centre team who provide ongoing advice and support.
3-6 Months: Health Check
Around this time, puppies are due for a check-up. A puppy will receive their vaccinations and basic health check to ensure they are in top shape. During its life, a Guide Dog will walk about 9,000km so it has to be in top physical shape.
14 Months: Farewells and New Beginnings
At 14 months, it’s time for the Puppy Raising family to say goodbye. It’s a sad time but knowing the young dog will one day give freedom and independence to someone with sight loss, makes it all worthwhile.
14-18 Months: Guide Dog Training
On returning to the Centre, all dogs will be tested on what they have learnt so far. The Instructor’s job is to build confidence and consistency in the dog as it learns many new skills. The dog must also learn how to manage distractions when it visits busier and noisier places. This is also a good time for the Instructor to observe each dog’s personality and to tailor training to suit their temperament.
20 Months: Graduation
After 20 weeks of intensive training, it is time for the dogs to take their final tests. They must now show the Instructor that they’ve learnt everything they need to know to become a successful Guide Dog. Dogs are tested on their ability to:
- Ignore distractions such as food, noises and other dogs
- Navigate obstacles
- Travel on public transport
18-24 Months: Match Makers
The dogs have now grown into lively Guide Dogs, so it’s important that they’re matched with the right person. A Guide Dog team must be a perfect fit. That’s why each dog and their Handler are matched on personality, lifestyle and physical traits.
2-10 Years: Working Life
It’s taken a lot of hard work but each Guide Dog is now ready to start their working life with their new Handler. Training doesn’t stop for Guide Dogs and their Handlers as the Guide Dog team learns to trust each other and develops a strong bond.
9+ Years: Retirement
After a dedicated working life, each Guide Dog will retire knowing that they’ve helped change someone’s life. When the time comes for a Guide Dog to hang up its harness, the Handler will have the option of keeping their older dog as a much-loved pet and almost all retired dogs remain with the Handler’s family.
Visit www.guidedogs.com.au to learn more and donate!
Article and images courtesy of Guide Dogs (NSW/ACT)