Guide Dog is a unique method of rehabilitation for vision impaired people. Independence gained with a Guide Dog’s helps vision impaired people to find work, friends, hobbies, get an education and resolve day-to-day challenges.
Our Centre mainly provides Guide Dog Training. Dogs’ amazing ability to remember routes that they walked and to find a way home has been noticed and used by people since a long time ago. Now the main task for a Guide Dog is to remember regular routes and take its visually impaired owner on them preventing him/her from being lost. Another task is to make such route safe.
Thanks to unique training methods a modern Guide Dog is very skilled. It is well adapted to work in a busy and noisy urban setting where it takes its owner through crowded streets, protecting from collisions, warning of obstacles. During its training a dog is taught to take a person across roads, find stairs, a necessary door or a bench. Sometimes a vision impaired people stay at home for years until they get a Guide Dog. Rehabilitation of vision impaired people with the help of dogs positively affects their emotional state. It is important that a dog being a cheerful and an active creature helps vision impaired people to overcome their psychological problems. A Guide Dog is a link between a vision impaired person and a world of sighted people. By attracting positive attention of people around them a Guide Dog motivates strangers to be more attentive to its owner.
Guide Dog Training Process
We purchase puppies of or young Labradors and sometimes Golden Retrievers. Puppies are taken through meticulous testing, we only train dogs that are fully compliant with the requirements of Guide Dogs. Labradors live with volunteer families for a period until their training starts. You can learn more about it in “Volunteer Program”
Main training starts when the dogs are 12 months old. They are trained at our training base and on city routes that include all important training elements that include various obstacles, markers, road crossings, etc. It is important that the dogs learn to work in an atmosphere filled with different stimuli. The dogs are trained by professionals that have many years of experience training assistance dogs for vision impaired people. Our standard training program consists of two parts: general obedience training and special Guide Dog training. In addition, we take into account wishes and certain particularities of each vision impaired person that we are training the dog for, introducing the necessary changes into its training. Guide Dog training takes on average 6 months. At the end of that period a Guide Dog has to take an exam together with its trainer. We must ensure that the training is complete and the dog is ready to work with a vision impaired person. The exam consists of 2 parts: demonstration of general obedience training and taking a route that the dog is familiar with. During the exam the dog is wearing a special Guide Dog equipment and its trainer is wearing blackout glasses that don’t let him/her see. It is necessary to make sure that the dog can work with a vision impaired person.
Teaching vision impaired person to work with a Guide Dog
Once the Guide Dog passes its exam its trainer starts the most difficult part of his/her work – transfer of a Guide Dog to a vision impaired person. The pair is formed during the last stage of the Guide Dog training. We use information provided in questionnaires and given to us during our meetings with vision impaired people that are on our waiting list. The Guide Dog is transferred at our Centre in Zheleznodorozhnyi (Moscow Region) or in Moscow for those living there and takes on average two weeks. The process depends on each person’s abilities and skills.
During the training the pair learn a number of main routes, practice commands of general obedience training. The dog gets used to its new owner. It is a very important period for the pair because during that period the foundation for their relationships is laid. It is important that the dog not only gets used to its new owner and loves him/her (this is never a problem!) but to see its owner as a leader that it has to obey and work the same was as the dog did with its trainer. A Guide Dog must combine both initiative and discipline both of which are vital for its work. A vision impaired person learns to understand his/her Guide Dog’s actions and to manage it.
The new owner also learns how to look after the dog, feeding and walking schedules. We teach them everything that a responsible and caring dog owner should know and do. We teach relatives of the Guide Dog owner (or his/her friends) how to correctly help him/her when learning new routes and when there are difficulties moving around independently.
The transfer of a Guide Dog ends when we are certain that the vision impaired person is fully able to do everything necessary to work with and look after the dog and the Guide Dog is doing its work well. We monitor the Guide Dog’s future and provide all necessary assistance to its owner.
Of course, this rehabilitation method is complicated and expensive but in 60 years of the Guide Dog service in Russia (and almost 100 years in Europe) it proved its efficiency. Our waiting list also confirms this and we have new names added to it monthly.
We would like to add that Guide Dogs receive just as much love and care and their “jobless” relatives. Sophisticated work does not prevent our dogs from being happy and cheerful.
To continue our work and to develop this type of rehabilitation in Russia we need your help! We are thankful for any support.