Training with a guide dog
Guide dog training is as important for you as it is for the dog.
The dog will have been trained to respond to specific cues and you will need to learn these to help you and the dog work together and build a strong partnership.
At Guide Dogs, we individually design training programmes to meet the needs of you and your dog. You will undertake two weeks training away from home, usually at a hotel, for which the basic costs are met by Guide Dogs. This is followed by a further three weeks back in your home environment. In some circumstances, you may need the whole of the training to be done at home and this will be discussed during the application process.
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.
No previous experience of keeping or caring for a dog is necessary, as everything will be taught during the training period, such as:
- general dog-handling skills
- feeding the correct diet
- exercising while on the harness and free running
- interacting and playing with your dog
- understanding dog behaviour
- cleaning up after your dog
- organising regular visits to the vet
- meeting your dog’s welfare needs
Once you have successfully completed training with a guide dog, you will be asked to enter into a legally binding contract with Guide Dogs.
Throughout your working partnership you will receive visits, at home and/or at work, from a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor. You may also be asked to attend group top-up days, where you and your dog will work with your local team to maintain a safe and enjoyable working partnership.
How are guide dogs trained?
The guide dog relationship is all about trust – the trust between the dog and a person with sight loss, but also the trust our dogs have in the people who care for and train them at every stage in their lives. In order to build that trust, Guide Dogs is committed to using Positive Reinforcement Training (PRT) in the training and management of all our dogs.
At Guide Dogs we use our own Standardised Training for Excellent Partnerships (STEP) programme, which uses the principles of positive reinforcement to teach our dogs everything they need to learn to be successful and happy in their lives. We always reward the behaviour we want, whether that’s a food treat, praise from their handler, or a play with their favourite toy – each dog is different, so we find out what works best for them.
Our guide dogs learn that training is rewarding, which means they are engaged with us and look forward to their work. This approach encourages them to problem-solve and builds their confidence, resulting in motivated, happy dogs who have the best possible preparation for their future as life-changers.