Wednesday, October 3, 2012

There Are Rules For Guide-Dog Pups...

Guide-dog puppies have very strict rules that we as puppy raisers have to raise them with and abide by. We're not being "mean" by not allowing certain behaviours for the puppies, there are very good reasons for these rules.
The first thing to keep in mind is that guide-dogs and guide-dog puppies are sponsored by individuals and businesses. A sponsorship of ten thousand Rand is only a fraction of what it really costs to raise, train and maintain these dogs for life, but without this sponsorship the South African Guide-dog Association's work would be impossible.
Interfering with training or breaking the rules means a puppy may fail the training programme and a sponsorship could go to waste.
The second thing to take into account is that someone is waiting for the guide-dog that my puppy will become. It could be their first dog or it could be a replacement for a dog about to retire, but the wait-list is a long one. Matching the pups with their blind person is very carefully done and the pups are "watched" from birth to make sure their and their blind partner's personalities are compatible.
Interfering with training or breaking the rules means a puppy may fail the training programme, and a person on the waiting list will have to wait that much longer for their dog.
Always remember that it is a thousand times harder to correct bad behaviour or a bad habit than it is to teach the right way to do something. It can take less than 45 minutes to teach one of these super-smart puppies a specific action, so imagine what feeding a pup scraps off your plate or off the table can teach him, when you visit somewhere for several hours!
Not being allowed to eat people food of any kind is a very important rule for the pups. Scraps from the table or from your plate are a huge no-no. We even teach them that snatching up food that falls to the floor is not allowed and they're not allowed to beg. When food is served, they are taught to lie quietly at our feet or lie elsewhere.
The reason for this- apart from it being unhealthy- is that a guide-dog can't be distracted by food or offers of food. If they've never associated human food with actually being food, this is a lot easier to teach. The pups are not allowed to take food from children's hands just because its easy to do. They're not allowed to beg because guide-dogs are supposed to accompany their blind partners everywhere, and allowing a guide-dog into a restaurant means the restaurant owners are trusting that the dog will not beg, or jump up on the table to steal or ask for food. The dogs also learn very quickly that their blind partner can't "see" them doing something naughty.
The pups are not allowed to jump up on people in greeting. For one thing this is a dominance behaviour and for another, a guide-dog jumping up on someone will completely disorient their blind partner! Even if you don't mind your dogs jumping on you, it is never "okay" for a guide-dog puppy.
They're not allowed to nibble to say hello, as puppies are wont to do. Even if you don't mind your dogs doing so, it is never "okay" for a guide-dog puppy.

As puppy raisers we work very hard to train our pups the right way to behave, from being just us alone at home to being out with a crowd of people. Not only do we work hard, the way our pups behave and respond to their training is closely monitored by SAGA and there's a substantial element of pride in knowing our pups are doing well and behaving as they should.
Please do as we ask when you are interacting with our pups. There are good reasons for these rules.


MeganTS said...

very interesting post! we've never raised guide dogs, but nothing annoys me more than when people over ride the rules i've set for my dogs just because they think it's cute for a dog to jump up!