How Puppies Train To Be Guide Dogs

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Our mission of the Guide Dog Foundation is: help people live without boundaries.

So, when my trainer brought Michael, I was just overwhelmed and Happiness. Just, I

can't explain it. It's just a fantastic thing. I'm not gonna cry, I swear! Ugh!

During that time with the bridging program, the volunteers and the staff

members are going to be exposing the puppy to a variety of different

environments and situations. So today we had a ball pit out and we had a little

tiny set of stairs. We also had a tunnel that was made out of flexible plastic.

Everything is a fun engaging exposure. So we make everything fun and exciting and

yeah, it's awesome! And all of a sudden, something they might have been

overwhelmed or scared at is something cool for them.

Our major goal for guide dog training is to get the dogs accustomed to the

harness and wearing in the harness, even at a young age. So the reason why we use the

puppy harness is it really gets the dog acclimated at that puppy stage. So when a

dog goes into a harness, is going to actually make the dog feel that – oh I

have a job. I'm working.

We ask our puppy raisers to socialize the dog so they're a welcome presence.

And it's really really important because we want the dogs to have fun and we want

the dogs to be exposed to everything for the first time with the puppy raiser and

not when they're with their client.

Making sure that they get lots of food rewards and belly rubs and kisses and

petting and playtime is important. Dogs love to learn they're just little

sponges. They want to do things and then you want to have a job.

At the Guide Dog Foundation about half of our dogs make it through the final guide dog process.

We care about the dog's happiness. We want them to be enjoying the job and we

find other jobs for them, if that works. And we have different career options, so

it's our responsibility to try and find a career that this dog will enjoy. And if

they don't want to have a career and they're telling us that they would be

more comfortable as a pet, that's absolutely a choice that the dog gets to

make. And they can be adopted by the puppy raiser or a selected adopter.

I've been a guide dog user for 16 years. And can't imagine life without one.

The bond is, hmm. The bond is indescribable. When you first pick up that harness handle

you're thinking – really? This four-legged friend is gonna make sure I go in a

straight line to get to where I need to go. And it's amazing, it works.

He just builds my confidence level. I'm very shy, truly I am. Holding the harness is

just a fantastic thing. I, the confidence level is just through the roof.

Man, now you made me cry! Wah! Come on!

I wasn't sure, I was scared. I had just graduated high school, and I flew out

to Long Island all by myself, and was just young. So when my trainer brought

Michael, I was just overwhelmed with happiness. I was scared to death with my

first dog. And when we got back to the starting point,

I probably ugly cried for five minutes because I knew that that dog would not

put me in harm's way.

All my dogs have been great and I truly appreciate what this organization does.