At K9Active we like to support charities that are close to our hearts and we recently decided to sponsor a Guide Dog puppy who is very aptly called Biscuit.
Biscuit is a gorgeous yellow Labrador x Golden Retriever puppy who has a long journey ahead of her as she goes through her puppy walking stage onto hopefully becoming a working Guide Dog and as her sponsors we will be receiving regular updates and photos of her progress.
As a young puppy Biscuit underwent a series of assessments to see if she has the right qualities to be a potential Guide Dog and like all of the pups who pass these tests she is now living in the home of a volunteer puppy walker for her socialising training. The role of a Puppy Walker is one which is vitally important as it is these volunteers who spend time a huge amount of time introducing the puppies to all the sights and sounds they need to be familiar with if they are to grow into confident dogs who can cope with the responsibility of one day leading a partially sighted or Blind person. As well as socialising Biscuit her puppy walker will also teach her good manners – both at home and when out in public, basic obedience and attend regular puppy classes with her and a member of the Guide Dog team.
One particularly important aspect of being a Guide Dog puppy in training Biscuit will have to learn about is how to greet members of the public or more importantly how to ignore them when she is working. As dog lovers it is all too easy to want to fuss a puppy when we see them but as a Guide Dog trainee they must learn that when they are in harness then they should not speak to passers-by unless their handler tells them they can. This can be challenging for a young dog but by learning at an early age to focus onto their handler and the job in hand rather than looking for people or other dogs to speak to they will have a great chance of being successful in later training. As Guide Dogs progress through their training and they reach the advanced stages where they start to learn to guide the dogs will wear a harness and sometimes a jacket. This harness and jacket indicates both to the dog and to members of the public that they are working and as a general rule they should not be approached with the same rule applying to other assistance dogs who are wearing jackets.
It is however perfectly acceptable to speak to the person at the other end of the lead or harness so long as they are comfortable with this but you should approach without making eye contact with the dog or putting your hand down to them. Should the handler give you permission to speak to their dog then you should do so calmly so you do not encourage any jumping up, it is very important that paws stay on the ground at all times. If a person with a Guide Dog requires assistance then they will usually lower the handle of the dogs harness and hold the lead instead but again you should approach the person rather than the dog.
Finally you should never feed a Guide Dog or any assistance dog without the handler’s permission even if the dog is off duty as this can encourage scrounging or scavenging which is something that must be avoided in a working dog.
Biscuit certainly has a lot to learn but we are looking forward to hearing how she rises to the challenge of her training.