Training

How do the dogs know when it is safe to cross the road?

The short answer to this one is that they don’t. The decision to cross the road is made by the owner who decides where and when it is safe to cross.



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How does the dog know where it is going?

The dog will learn routes over a period of time. However, it is a partnership and the owner needs to have knowledge of their environment in order to support the dog and tell it which way to go. You need to remember that the dog left to its own devices may choose the route to the park every time, so it is important that you are in charge of navigation.



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How often should I go out with the dog?

Like all dogs, guide dogs need regular exercise, and it is important that they are exercised whilst working in harness to reinforce their training. Unfortunately, this means going out on rainy days too, so that is something you need to think about.



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Do I need any training to use the guide dog?

Training is as important for you as it is for the dog. The dog will have been trained to respond to specific commands and directions and you will need to learn these in order to make the dog work for you. It is also an important time to build the bond with the dog so that it takes responsibility for guiding you. Training programmes are individually designed in order to meet the needs of you and your dog and usually involve some residential training. During the training you will undertake walks with your dog. These will give you the opportunity to practise the techniques you will need and gain experience working with your dog successfully in a variety of environments and everyday situations. You will also cover areas such as grooming, feeding, obedience, understanding dog behaviour, cleaning up after your dog and general dog-handling skills.



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Where will my training take place?

The location of your training will be agreed in advance. You will be asked if you can undertake a period of residential training away from your home. This is usually in a hotel or other such facility. The basic costs for hotel based training will be met by Guide Dogs. If residential training is not feasible due to your personal circumstances then a complete or partial training course at home may be arranged. Either way, we will discuss with you the most practicable method for training delivery bearing in mind your needs as well as those of your prospective dog.



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How long would I have to wait before I could be trained?

The waiting time can vary but generally we say at least six months. This is, however, governed by the types of dog available at any given time and in some cases the waiting period can be shorter or longer.



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What happens at home after training?

If you have successfully trained with a guide dog you will be asked to enter into a legally binding contract with Guide Dogs. The instructor will visit you at home for another two to three weeks after training to help you settle with the guide dog and to provide assistance and advice on routes. Throughout your working partnership you will receive regular visits from a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor, and the mobility team will be there to support you and your guide dog.



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How long does the dog work for and what happens at the end of its working life?

The guide dog is usually between eighteen months and two years old when it finishes its formal training and it will work for approximately seven to eight years. At the end of its working life the guide dog owner may decide to keep the dog, or may know of a friend or family member who would adopt the dog. We have lots of enquiries from people who would like to adopt retired guide dogs and we often help to rehome them.



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