Hey dog lovers,
This week I wanted to share an interview I did with a childhood friend from camp who trains dogs for the blind. Her name is Melissa and she is 22 just like me. Hope you like it!
When did you know you wanted to start training guide dogs?
I was visiting my brother at college for family weekend and met a lady who had a puppy and I obviously had to meet the puppy and as I was talking to the owner found out she was training him to be a service dog and as soon as I got the chance I found a program near me that I could become a part of.
What year did you start training guide dogs?
I got my first dog Rhianna in the spring of 2010.
How many Guide dogs have you trained?
I am currently on my 3rd dog and she is scheduled to leave and finish her training in New York in June
What is your favorite part about training guide dogs?
My favorite part is knowing that they will always have an amazing home to live in even if they do not pass as a service dog. If the dogs do not pass (my second dog) the puppy raiser which is what I am, gets the first chance to take them back but if we do not take them back for whatever reason there is about a 10 year waiting list for these dogs because they are still amazing dogs.
What is the hardest part about raising a guide dog?
100% the hardest part is giving them up, going back to what I said earlier these dogs become my best friend and when I say goodbye to them before their last part in training it is actually heart breaking and on top of that you do not know if you will see them again, if they graduate I get the chance to see them and meet the blind person they will be with but if they don’t (like Perkins my second dog) who does not pass I do not get a chance to say goodbye.
At what age do you start training the dogs and for how long do they have to be trained for?
I have a puppy for a year and a half and they go every where I go and that means shopping, school, and even small errands that I do periodically. They are such loyal dogs that they will follow you any where you go. each one of my dogs has just sat in the bathroom and waited for me to shower and even when I go pee Ohio will push the door open or cry outside if she cant come in. Basically it feels great that they just love you no matter what
If there any preferred breed over another to be a guide dog?
In the organization I am in they only use labs or german shepards, and labs are used because they are so food oriented and will do anything for it. Personally I have not trained germans but I do know they are more difficult because they get very protective over people but not in a violent way but that they listen to everything their trainer says
What do they learn while being trained?
When they are with me they are being taught the basics such as sit, down, stand, close, and stuff like that. however on top of that they are being exposed to so many different environments. I take they to every where I go so I as a puppy raiser are getting the dogs used to everywhere that they dogs might be exposed to when they are service dogs
What age do they retire if they do from training or working?
For retiring it depends on the dog 100%, dogs will decided when they want to stop. some dogs will stop after 2-3 years of working but usually they are about 7-8 years old
Do owners need any training to own a guide dog?
The people who receive a dog in my program are brought to our home base in New York and stay there for a few weeks to learn about the program and then matched up to the dog. It can take a few tries to get them matched up to a dog because not every dog will go with every person they have to have a connection.
For me I had found out that normal people can train dogs and googled something and when I found one near me it gave me an email address and I contact the person. If someone is interest in participating in this they just need to search the program and find the right person to email.
Why cant certain dogs be touched while others can if you ask the owner?
It is actually kind of rude to people that are blind if someone asks if they can touch their service dog. to them these dogs are their life line, they stop them from walking into walls and traffic and when someone distracts them it can put them in danger. some people allow it because they just friendly and okay with it others wont because they see it as rude. they see it as let me touch your walking cane
Do you know someone who does something to give back in regards to dogs? Please let me know in the comments, don’t forget to check out my Scarves for Paws Website and purchase one today!
“A dog teaches a boy fidelity, perseverance, and to turn around three times before laying down” – Roger Caras