Thursday, December 15, 2011

How Is Training A Guide-dog Puppy Different? #SAGApupVolt

Several people have asked me what I will be doing with Volt whilst raising him, in terms of training.
I think people are a touch concerned about whether I am qualified to train a guide-dog, but let me re-assure you, they have very specialised training AFTER they are grown.
My job will be everything that comes before that- basic obedience training and raising him.
Here are some details about what puppy raising is about.

  • Whilst socialisation is important for all pups, a guide-dog must be able to go anywhere the general public is allowed so as to be trained not to be distracted by the different smells, sights, and people he or she may come across in many different situations- malls, buses, trains, airports, other people's homes, offices and so on. 
  • When travelling in the car, a guide-dog stays on the floor on the passenger side. This is for both safety and practical reasons- he is away from the airbag and when he’s riding with his blind partner he will be on the floor of the car or bus or train. 
  • Guide-dog puppies are not trained with food rewards. They get lots of praise from their handlers instead as the commands they learn are a lifestyle for them, not tricks. 
  • Guide-dog pups can't play with tennis balls or frisbees. The main reason of course is that you can't have a guide-dog taking off after a tennis ball one day when he is leading his blind partner! 
  • A guide-dog pup is never allowed on the furniture. Granted, this is a rule for a lot of pets including my own dogs, but Volt must stay off the furniture. 
  • Guide-dogs pups must be trained not to sniff. They are only allowed to sniff right before they do their business, otherwise - no sniffing is allowed. When leading their blind partner, they have to pay attention to their job. 
  • There are specific commands that a guide-dog pup must learn and they shouldn’t be taught any more than that. In his formal training he will be learning more advanced techniques and if he’s learnt anything beyond his basic obedience commands it may interfere with his more advanced instructions. 
  • Believe it or not, guide-dogs are taught to pee and poop on command and must never go to the bathroom when wearing their guide-dog jackets or when walking their blind partner one day. 
  • No territorial marking is allowed. 
  • When unsupervised at home (and for no more than a couple of hours), Volt will stay in his crate. 
  • Once every two months (at least), Volt will go back to SAGA’s kennels for a bit of a visit so that he gets used to going there and staying there. The same goes if we go away on holiday. When Volt is grown and undergoes his advanced training, he will be living at the kennels full time so the more time he spends there the less traumatic it will be for him.
click on the puppy to make a donation to SAGA
Don't forget to check out the Twitter hash-tag #SAGApupVolt to see regular updates on my puppy raising adventure!