Guide dogs for the blind are trained with the help of several people. The guide dogs for the blind training school staff does the feeding, hygiene maintenance, grooming, and handling guide dogs when they are sick or if they have recently had surgery. The trainer provides the preliminary and secondary trainings. A mobility instructor comes in through the final stages of training before the dogs can be handed over to their respective owners.
These people are professionals, each with their own specialty. They have undergone extensive training, themselves. They are required to undergo and pass the rigorous training to get a license before they could start practicing. The training school must be certified and all the trainers handling the dogs are licensed also. The trainers in fact should have undergone at least 15 months of training as well as a three year apprenticeship with a licensed instructor after. The mobility instructor has to accomplish three years of training that sometimes requires them to move in and stay in the training school for months. After that, they could take the examinations that they need to pass to obtain a license.
Guide dogs for the blind are molded to be professionals. In fact, they are intended to be guide dogs even before their birth. There are particular breeds of dogs that have the characteristics that a great guide dog should possess and the breeders breed them with the particular end result in mind. Puppies intended to be guide dogs start getting trained by the dog trainer after the first two months of their lives. They are initially trained in the basics such as determining sounds and smell. They are being brought into the places that they will work in the future to familiarize them with their environment. They are also taught to always walk ahead of their handler. In this part of the training, they learn to respond when commanded to sit, stay, come, and other such basics. Then the training stops for a while.
After a guide dog turns one year old, the second part of the training starts. This is when guide dogs meet their trainers again for a refresher course and to familiarize them with the new routines they will be required to practice. The trainer decides when a dog is finally ready to be handed off to the mobility instructor who will provide the final and the hardest part of the guide dog training.
During final training, guide dogs are rewarded not only with food but with love and affection. Dogs may not understand the words that are said to them, but they can develop an understanding of what is wrong and what is right. There are collar cues provided on the first part of this training stage. These are the cues that the mobility instructor use when guide dogs commit errors and when these dogs finally get things right, they are rewarded with food and verbal praises.
By this, guide dogs will determine when the instructor says something negative or positive. These three lessons go together. The instructor talks while giving rewards or while moving the collar. In this stage, guide dogs learn to distinguish when they are being praised and whether or not the instructor is satisfied or angry. When they know how to discern between the two, they can also determine if the instructor is happy with them regardless of whether he shows it through actual physical or verbal acts.
Upon completion of the final stage of training, the instructor takes time to visit the client regularly to study how he can match a particular guide dog to a particular client. Environments, attitudes, lifestyles and the characteristics of both students and guide dogs are important factors. Instructors call this the assessment part.
When the instructors have decided, the rehabilitation worker comes in. They train the potential owner on everything they need to know about the guide dog, and how to work with him. The normal routine and tasks commonly occurring in the particular client's life are matched by the level of energy that guide dogs have. The best possible fit between guide dog and owner is evaluated to ensure harmony in the relationship for the long term.
When guide dogs are finally handed over to their new owners, they will both experience an adjustment period. The mobility instructors provide regular visits to help the two parties establish a solid working partnership.