Guide Dog Training
At the start of the Guide Dog training program, each dog is allocated to a trainer who spends the first few weeks bonding and developing the dog\’s response to a number of commands, instructions and prompts.
In the beginning, most of the dog\’s training takes place on site at the Bald Hills Breeding and Training Centre. From around week three, when the dog is ready to undertake its first training walk in harness, much of its training is done off site in areas such as residential neighbourhoods, rural and city locations, shopping malls, and rail and bus stations.
Guide Dogs Queensland\’s Holistic Training method is a reward-based process that makes the training experience positive, pleasant and rewarding for the Guide Dog.
Eventually the Guide Dog will learn to:
- Respond to the handler\’s instructions;
- Locate safe road crossing points and stop at kerbs;
- Cross roads straight;
- Avoid stationary obstacles such as street furniture;
- Avoid height obstacles such as overhangs;
- Avoid obstacles such as pedestrians, prams, trolleys and bicycles; and
- Locate objects and destinations.
Despite the hard work involved, Guide Dogs are intelligent and talented dogs that love to work, receive praise and carry out their role as Guide Dogs.
When the dog consistently performs its work safely and effectively it is assessed as being ready for allocating to a person who is legally blind. This usually occurs when the dog is around 20 to 24 months of age.
The working life of a Guide Dog Our Guide Dogs will usually work for eight to 10 years before being retired. Upon retirement, the Guide Dog Client has the option of keeping the dog or having their dog stay with a family member.
If the Guide Dog can not stay with its client, then a loving and suitable home will be sourced, through our re-homing program. A person can have up to four or five Guide Dogs in their lifetime.
Guide Dog Etiquette
The working partnership of a Guide Dog and client is inspiring to see, but it is the result of intensive training for both the person and the Guide Dog.
Though it\’s natural for people especially children to want to pat, praise or meet the Guide Dog, in approaching the working team you could be endangering the safety of the team.
Guide Dogs Queensland has some important tips we ask the general community to be aware of when they meet or see a Guide Dog in harness. Please remember:
- When a Guide Dog is in harness it is working. Whether it is walking, sitting or sleeping, it should not be patted, fed, or distracted.
- The Guide Dog must not be the centre of attention. A well-intentioned pat can undo months of training.
- We encourage the general public to restrict prolonged eye contact with the Guide Dog.
- Please talk to the person and not the Guide Dog.
- Please don’t grab the person or the dog\’s harness. Ask if they need assistance first.
- If you provide assistance to the Guide Dog User, please walk on the person’s opposite side to the Guide Dog.
- Please make sure your pet dog is on a leash or under control around the Guide Dog. When approaching, it may be polite to let the person know that you have a dog.
- If you see a stray pet dog, please contact your local Council.
When out in public, the person who is blind or vision impaired and the Guide Dog are concentrating on reaching their destination safely. They need to maintain that level of concentration and being interrupted can inconvenience the user who must stop and regain control of their dog.
Out of harness and at home, Guide Dogs are just like any other pet dog – they romp, play, roll and run – but with the harness on they are highly skilled guides.
Guide Dog Access Rights
Guide Dogs provide Queenslanders who are vision impaired with a safe means of independent travel. Guide Dogs and Guide Dog Users\’ Right to enter public places – including shops, hotels, motels, restaurants, as well as taxis, buses and trains, are protected by law.
The following legislation covers rights of a Guide Dog and its user:
- The Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act 2009 provides legal access for persons who require the aid of a Guide Dog to enter public places and public passenger vehicles.
- The Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act 2009 also sets out the rights and responsibilities of Guide Dog training institutions, trainers, and person in charge of public places and public passenger vehicles.
- The Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 applies to Queensland residents and prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, including those who use a Guide Dog.
- The Building Units and Group Titles Act 1980. Section 12 of this Act allows the owner or occupier of a strata lot to keep a Guide Dog and overrides by-laws that prohibit dogs.
The official status of a Guide Dog can be checked by asking to see the official Guide Dog ID cards given to clients by Guide Dogs Queensland or by calling the association and asking for verification.
All Guide Dogs, weather in Guide Dog Training or in the Puppy Development program, must be in a coat or harness which is an identifying symbol under the Guide, Hearing and Assistance dogs Act 2009 when in a public place or passenger vehicle.
Penalties do apply to people who are found guilty of refusing access to a Guide Dog.
For more information please contact Guide Dogs Queensland.
Our Breeding Program
The first step in the successful training of a Guide Dog has been taken years before we see the final inspiring result, by Guide Dogs Queensland’s Breeding Program.
Our Breeding Program specialises in Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and the cross of these two breeds. The program sources bloodlines from international and fellow Australian Guide Dog schools.
All the puppies born at Guide Dogs Queensland’s Breeding and Training Centre in Brisbane, (and those who join our program from other schools), are bred from proven Guide Dog pedigree.
This means that our dogs already have the advantage of successful working Guide Dogs in their bloodlines.
Each of our studs and broods has been specially selected for its genetic “task specific” characteristics. This means they will have a pre-disposition towards Guide Dog work; as well as for their temperamental and physical qualities.
All of our selected breeding stock must be of such a high standard that they would be assessed as being int he top six per cent of the Guide Dog training group– graduated breeding stock are the elite of the training program. All of our potential breeding dogs are examined by the association’s Consulting Veterinary Specialists and DNA tested to screen for any possible health problems or inherited disorders.
We also use frozen semen from selected stud dogs from a network of overseas Guide Dog schools. These partnerships enable the exchange of top quality Guide Dog genetic material.
Why the breed?
Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers are the breeds most commonly used by Guide Dog schools around the world. They have many personality and physical traits that suit the guiding role. They are, affable, gentle, intelligent, motivated, highly trainable and readily transfer their respect and allegiance from one person to another.
The breeds’ physical attributes, such as sturdy shoulder conformation, moderate coat care and moderate size also suit the guiding role.
Our Breeding Colony is also cared for by volunteer carers in the community. Click here to learn more about becoming a Breeding Carer.
We are still a young Guide Dog school (just 50 years young in 2010 and our breeding program is around 15 years old) compared to some of the more established schools in America, United Kingdom and Europe. We are very fortunate to receive the support of several respected Guide Dog schools around the world, such as Guide Dogs for the Blind, in San Rafael, California.
Guide Dogs for the Blind have donated four wonderful Broods to our breeding program; ‘Tipper’, \’Carli\’, ‘Lark’ and \’Gilda\’ and we continue to source frozen semen from their studs, who have quality pedigrees and a history of success. Guide Dogs Queensland has also sourced semen from proven lines in guide dogs schools in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, United States and other Australian Guide Dog schools.
Even more exciting is, thanks to the support of these established schools, our Breeding Program is growing stronger each year and we are now able to return the favour and pass on our expertise to even younger breeding programs. In exchange for breeding stock we send our breeding, stud dogs and puppies to schools around the world to enhance their programs.
NB: Guide Dogs Queensland appreciates the interest and support that the public shows for our breeding program, but respectfully decline the donation of puppies or stud dog service. Thank you.
Rehoming a Guide Dog
What happens to the dogs that don’t make it?
Due to Guide Dogs Queensland\’s commitment to producing quality Guide Dogs, our dogs are continuously assessed throughout the training process to determine suitability to the guiding role.
Our success rate of producing qualified Guide Dogs is consistently improving.
Naturally, not every dog fulfils its destiny of becoming a Guide Dog due to unavoidable factors including health and temperament.
Dogs that fail to meet our standard are withdrawn from the program and re-classified for alternative careers or rehomed with assessed families.
Those dogs that don’t make it may go on to become:
- Companion dogs
- Facility Dogs
- Family Pets
- Detector Dogs with Corrective Services Queensland
- Public Relations Dogs
New life and family
Our dogs make wonderful pets and sometimes just need a loving home. It is for this reason we accept applications from community members interested in purchasing our re-homed dogs.
Even though the dogs are offered for sale, we allocate them based on assessment as there are certain criteria that need to be fulfilled. Applicants must:
- Reside within 90 minutes of our Breeding and Training Centre, Bald Hills
- Be at home at least 80% of the time day and night
- Allow the dog to live and sleep inside
- Have a securely fenced, dog safe yard
- Not have children under 5 years of age.
Applicants should understand that our dogs are accustomed to a certain level of human contact. We expect our dogs to remain inside the home with regular human contact and stimulation such as exercise and the ability of the owner to meet feeding and veterinary costs.
Guide Dog-in-training Public Relations Program
We have a team of volunteers who take part in public relations and fundraising activities in partnership with a Guide Dog-in-training (Public Relations). These dedicated people provide a home to these sociable dogs and take them along to public events, schools and corporate groups to promote to work of Guide Dogs Queensland.
This role is suited to people with strong dog handling and public speaking skills, and we generally offer this opportunity to volunteers who have had a long association with Guide Dogs Queensland through the Puppy Development Program or Breeding Stock Carer Program.
Volunteers who work in this area need to fulfill the following criteria;
- Experience in raising a puppy or providing care through boarding
- Able to speak well in public and be willing to represent Guide Dogs Queensland
- Time to attend Guide Dogs Queensland events and fundraising stalls
- Reside within 90 minutes of Bald Hills or a Guide Dogs Queensland regional office
- Allow the dog to live and sleep inside
- A securely fenced yard
- Able to provide the dog with regular exercise and grooming
- Able to maintain Guide Dogs Queensland\’s recommended handling and obedience training
- Time to attend quarterly training sessions with our Guide Dog Services, and Communications and Marketing teams.