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So, how do you make a guide dog?
It doesn’t happen overnight. And it takes patience, time, and money. Did you know, for instance, that each guide dog partnership involves 20 months of training, seven years of support – and costs around £50,000? You’ll find out more about how it all works if you sponsor your own guide dog puppy, but for now, here are two interesting features of guide dog puppy training:
We introduce the dogs to obstacles gradually, and teach them to navigate their way round. It can take a while to master, but when the dogs get it right the trainer gives them lots of encouragement and maybe even a little treat!
They can't check the traffic lights!
It’s a popular misconception that a guide dog will know when to cross the road by waiting for the green light. In reality, it’s a team effort – and not an easy task. On a standard kerb-to-kerb crossing known to the owner, the guide dog is trained to stop at the edge, to indicate it has reached a crossing. The owner will listen for traffic, then, when he or she decides it’s safe, give the command ‘Forward!’ However, the guide dog’s training teaches them NOT to obey the command if a car’s coming.
0 to 6 weeks
Your tiny puppy is living with its mum and siblings in a Guide Dogs volunteer’s home. As well as playing, exploring and napping, the puppy will go to our state of the art breeding centre at six weeks for health checks and immunisations.
6 weeks to 4 months
Your puppy has now moved to its Puppy Walker’s home. During these crucial months, the dog will start learning good manners and basic commands, such as ‘sit’ and ‘down’ – as well as how to walk on the lead.
4 to 14 months
Your puppy is starting to get used to the area it lives in. It will learn how to negotiate flights of stairs, busy shopping areas and various means of transport. It will also get used to being around people and other dogs.
14 to 17 months
It’s time for guide dog training school. A professional guide dog trainer will introduce your puppy to a special brown training harness. It’s also time to start learning guiding skills such as dealing with kerbs and avoiding obstacles.
17 to 20 months
At this stage, a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor will start to pull all your puppy’s training together, so that it learns to use guiding skills in everyday situations. They will also start the matching process, finding a blind or partially sighted person who’s just right for your puppy.
20 to 22 months
Congratulations – you are the sponsor of a fully trained guide dog! He or she will now be matched with a person with sight loss so they can get to know each other and start their partnership training.
22 to 24 months
Your guide dog has changed a blind or partially sighted person’s life forever! It has now settled into its new home and is practicing its regular routes. A Guide Dog Mobility Instructor will keep visiting to check how it’s all going.