14th July 2019
Guide dogs are trained from a young age to help people with visual impairments. But did you know that Guide Dog school is a lot like human school? We spoke to Andrea, a Guide Dog Trainer at The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, who told us all about how they are trained.
Puppies start school a lot earlier in life than humans. From about seven weeks old, they will live with
Puppy Walkers, who will teach them the basics, like following and understanding instructions. Once they have mastered the basics, puppies move onto Early Training, which is like Primary School. They will now start to learn the skills which will help them to become good Guide Dogs, including how
to behave when crossing roads, how to go to the toilet and how to help their human get around obstacles such as cars parked on the pavement or lamp posts.
As they learn new skills, Guide Dog trainers will get to know the dogs, and will have an idea of the type of person they will eventually be paired with. Just as we move to Secondary School, the dogs move onto Advanced Training, where they start to learn the skills their human will need them to have. This can be different for each dog, but usually includes transport training — so that they
can help their human to catch the bus, train or tram. They will also learn how to disobey orders when they need to — like holding their human back from the road when it is unsafe to cross.
Much like humans, Guide Dogs never really stop learning. They live with the person they have been trained to help, and they can be working for up to 10 years — though this depends on their overall health and ability to carry on. Just like you, a Guide Dog will learn new skills throughout life, and will use this knowledge to be a better companion for their human.
Want to know more about The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association? Follow them on Facebook. The team regularly post updates on dogs and puppies currently in training, as well as fundraising activities and general updates.