once the grown dogs return to our campuses from their puppy raising homes, they are ready to learn the tools of the trade. for two to three months the dogs are taught by our professional guide dog mobility instructors to safely guide someone through the complexities of pedestrian travel. our guide dog training program maximizes the use of positive reinforcement methods, including science-based clicker training. in addition to learning how to lead a person safely around obstacles, guide dogs are also trained in “intelligent disobedience”: if they are given an unsafe cue from their handler, they are taught to disobey it (for example: refusing to step out into the street when there is oncoming traffic). in addition, all guide dogs possess an eagerness to please and a willingness to work. guide dogs take their cues and direction from their human partners; it’s up to the person to determine the routes they take and if it is safe to cross a street. our dogs are trained with positive reinforcement methods that use high value rewards of both food and praise. as the training advances, dogs are given the freedom to make errors.
once the dogs have completed their formal guidework training, they are ready to enter what we call “class training.” we are committed to pairing the right dog with the right person. the newly-matched team spends two weeks learning to work together in a variety of real-life situations. it is a special day filled with a lot of love, as puppy raisers, soon-to-be-graduates, and guide dogs all take the stage to celebrate their achievements. guide dogs get to go everywhere and do everything their partners do and they are showered with attention. when the harness is on, guide dogs are “all business” – serious about their work, and focused on the safety of the team. most guide dogs work until they are around 8-10 years old, but this varies with individual dogs and their lifestyles. after spending a life of devoted partnership, guide dogs deserve to spend their senior years in comfortable (and pampered!) they may remain with their partner as a pet, return to the home where they were raised, or be placed in a loving adoptive home.
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