When it comes to guide dogs, the United Kingdom has set the standard for the rest of the world. With over 5,000 registered guide dog partnerships, these furry companions and their dedicated trainers have transformed the way people with visual impairments navigate the world. From their extensive training to their daily routines, there’s a lot to discover about these incredible guide dogs. Join us as we delve into the wonderful world of Guide Dogs UK.
How Guide Dogs UK is Changing Lives
Guide Dogs UK is a registered charity that has been transforming the lives of visually impaired people for almost 90 years. The organisation prides itself on providing lifelong support for both the guide dog and its owner, which includes aspects like veterinary care, training, and aftercare. The life-changing work of Guide Dogs UK is made possible by the dedication of countless staff members, volunteers and, of course, the dogs themselves.
The Guide Dog Training Process
Guide dogs go through a rigorous training process that takes anywhere from three to six months. It all starts at a breeding centre where the pups are specifically bred for their role as guide dogs. After eight weeks, the dogs are sent to the homes of volunteer puppy walkers who socialise them and teach them basic obedience. Once they’re around 14-months-old, they’re taken to a training centre where they undergo three to six months of intensive training.
Who is Eligible for a Guide Dog?
Both adults and children with visual impairments can apply for a guide dog, but there are certain eligibility criteria that must be met. Applicants must be legally blind or partially sighted, able to safely handle a guide dog, and have a safe, suitable living environment for a dog. There’s also an assessment process to ensure that the individual’s lifestyle is compatible with owning a guide dog and to assess whether the dog can work effectively with them. Guide Dogs UK works tirelessly to make sure that both the dog and owner are well-suited and have a good partnership progress.
The Cost of a Guide Dog
Guide Dogs UK provides their services free of charge to the visually impaired people in the UK. The organisation’s training, breeding, aftercare, and veterinary care is funded entirely through donations and sponsorship. However, the lifetime cost of a guide dog is around £55,000 due to the costs of their breeding, training and other professional services which are received throughout the life of the dog, which makes contributions and donations crucial to the organisation.
The Benefits of Having a Guide Dog
There are numerous benefits to owning a guide dog, such as increased independence, safety while travelling, improved mental health, and social interaction. Many guide dog users report feeling less isolated, more confident, and happier with their furry companion by their side. These dogs are more than just a pet; they’re a life-changing partner, providing a constant source of assistance, comfort, and companionship.
Training Guide Dogs
Guide dogs are extraordinary dogs that help those with disabilities to lead an independent life. These intelligent dogs are trained to ensure their handlers navigate their environment safely and comfortably. They are trained to alert their owners to obstacles ahead, find doors, and look for landmarks. Because of the extensive training they require, guide dogs are not just any dog bred to perform a task; they require the guidance of skilled professionals. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through the process of training guide dogs, step by step.
The breeding process is the first step in creating effective guide dogs. To begin the process, breeders carefully select dogs with good temperaments, good health, and a willingness to work. Once the breeding is done, the process of nurturing the puppies begins. The puppies experience several socialization activities to get introduced to different surroundings.
The puppies undergo basic training when they are eight weeks old. Basic training typically lasts around 3-4 months and is done in a group setting with other puppies. They learn basic obedience commands such as sit, down, come, stay, and walk on a leash. Along with obedience training, puppies go out for walks every day.
Guiding skills training starts when the puppy is older and has completed basic training. For about six months, the dog is trained to walk in a straight line, stop at curbs till crosswalk signals, remain focused on work and ignore distractions, such as other dogs, vehicles, and people.
In task training, they undergo instructions that include being alert to overhead obstacles, such as tree branches; stop at stairs and escalators; navigate outdoor environments, such as traffic; and locate the handler’s destination, such as a parked car.
When the dog has completed all training, they go through a final graduation ceremony, marking the end of their weeks or months of hard work. Once that is done, the guide dog is entrusted to its new owner and is proud to be the person’s new eyes.