April 25th is International Guide Dog Day. On this day, we take time to celebrate and honor the amazing efforts of guide dogs and their trainers around the world.
It’s no small feat to train a dog to be a full-time guide and companion – not just any puppy can be a guide dog! They must have a certain temperament before they are even accepted into the program.
Once a puppy is accepted, they are matched with a carefully screened “puppy raiser” as the first step in the process. This person (or persons) provides the foundation and initial training and socialization before the puppy goes to formal guide dog training, usually after at least a year.
From there, dogs will be trained according to the needs of those who will depend upon them, whether those needs are behavioral, guidance or medically-based. As these needs are varied, so, too, are the time frames, though typically it takes up to an additional year after the initial puppy raising.
But the training isn’t over yet! Once a dog has been paired with its new owner, they will have their own one-on-one training as well to get used to each other, typically lasting anywhere from three to four weeks.
When you see one in public, it’s tempting to want to pet it or call to it. However, remember that this is a working dog and that someone’s wellbeing is depending upon it staying focused! It’s best to refrain from reaching out to guide dogs. If the animal and the owner are at rest, it may be okay to request to pet the animal, but don’t be offended if the owner declines.
What should you do if you think you or someone you know may be in need of a guide dog? Visit Guide Dogs of America’s website to see if a guide dog is right for you!