Most dogs know a trick or two. Sit, shake, ride a bike. Actually, that one’s pretty awesome. But what about teaching a dog to cross a road, navigate a crowd, or even catch a train. Across Australia there are thousands of super smart puppers helping blind and vision impaired people to get around. But before guide dogs can get guiding, they’ve gotta go through a whole lot of training.
CALE: So, that’s why I’ve popped down to guide dogs SA/NT to see exactly what this training entails. Because it’s a tail. Anyway.
CALE: Hi Taylor, nice to meet you. So, we’re about to go meet Jo Jo the guide dog, is there anything I need to know before we meet her?
TAYLOR, GUIDE DOG TRAINER: There is. She’s in harness. So, no patting, talking, distracting in any way. While she’s in harness she’s a working dog.
CALE: Cool. So, when we meet the cute, adorable, fluffy little puppy hands to myself.
TAYLOR: That’s the one.
CALE: Let’s go meet her.
Say g’day to Jo Jo. G’day Jo Jo. Like all guide dogs, Jo Jo has spent 12 months of her puppyhood going everywhere with a volunteer puppy raiser, learning the basics like sit and stay and getting used to all sorts of situations. Be careful. After that, she came here to Guide Dogs SA/NT for a puppy personality test.
TAYLOR: So, we have a look at their temperament, their personality, we see if they’ve got any issues with surfaces, dog distraction, anything like that.
See not every dog is suited to guiding, but there are lots of other jobs they can do.
TAYLOR: So, apart from the guide dogs, we have autism assistance dogs, we use facility dogs, court dogs.
But Jo Jo was picked to be a guide dog which meant another 20 weeks of specific guide dog training.
TAYLOR: So, we teach them how to be able to walk in a straight line from curb to curb, how to turn left and right, and then we progressed through busy areas, how to catch buses, taxis, trains, all the way into walking into central markets and going through all the busy areas.
It costs about 50,000 dollars to train one guide dog, most of which comes from donations and Taylor says International Guide Dog Day is a great way to show people just how valuable these puppers are. It’s also a good time to teach people what to do when they see a guide dog, a little something Taylor likes to call petiquette.
TAYLOR: The first thing that they should do is if the handler is walking along, give them some space to come through, don’t interact with them, don’t distract them, don’t try and pat them feed them, whistle, or any distraction.
That means no pats guys no matter how cute the dog is. So, you never know you might see Jo Jo and her new owner out on the streets and if you do, keep your distance, but spare a thought for the important work that she and her puppy pals do every day.