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I just received a letter in the mail that it’s time for Stetson to return to the Guide Dogs of America for his formal training in Sylmar, CA. I’m sad and happy at the same time. It’s going to be difficult letting Stetson go on to the next stage of his life. However, this is exactly what we’ve been working towards over the past year.
I think of it as Stetson graduating high school (his training time with me) and moving on to college at GDA. Of course when he graduates college he’ll move on to his career hopefully as a guide dog. If he doesn’t make it as a guide dog then he can be career changed to life as a pet, therapy dog, search and rescue, or possibly some other type of working dog. If Stetson comes back to me as a pet I’ll do my best to get Stetson trained as a therapy dog.
Stetson Posing As A Bear
While thinking about Stetson departure I took a look back at his puppy manual to see what last minute things we could work on to get Stetson ready for “college.”
From the Guide Dogs of America puppy manual:
Causes For Disqualification
In order to successfully complete guide dog training and become a useful mobility aid to a blind person, a dog must meet certain physical and temperamental requirements.
- 26 inch maximum height
- 20 inch minimum height
- Allowance of 1/2 inch at each end for exceptionally nice dogs or special need
- Weight in direct relationship to proper size
- Scars that are large enough or severe enough to cause negative comment from the general public
- Down (or non-erect) ears on a German Shepherd Dog
- Severely undershot or overshot bite
- Missing teeth (enough to interfere with keeping tongue properly in mouth)
- Any obvious disqualifying fault that the general public would be able to notice about any breed that GDA uses.
In discussing temperamental causes for disqualification there is no correct way to list them as there are too many different factors involved with each individual dog. Obviously with the responsibility that a working guide dog has, it is important that the dog be able to handle stress and pressure during the normal course of working. Some of the causes as follows but are not limited to:
- Aggression toward people or extremely fearful of people
- Uncontrollable dog aggression
- Uncontrollable animal distraction/interest
- Fear biting
- General suspicion of environment
- Excessive energy
- Destructive behavior
- Sound shyness
- Over sensitivity to traffic
- Lacking ability to remain focused in distraction areas
- Overly sensitive to pressure in guide work
- Too insensitive to correction, requiring force beyond the average blind person’s physical ability
- Lack of willingness to work as a guide dog
- Car sickness
- Immature and/or irresponsible decision making
Many dogs will display some of these in the very beginning but the instructors will work with them, giving them evey possible chance to show improvement. If the undesirable characteristic continues or increases, it will be necessary to terminate the dog’s training. Many times, a dog will improve and reach a point that the original problem was eliminated. Some dogs will start with no concerns but with added pressure of learning to become a guide dog, will manifest the undesirable behavior. We try to give each dog as much individual time, effort, and opportunity to succeed in becoming a guide dog, but we must adhere to a work standard that will give each blind person the best possible mobility aid through their guide dog as possible.
The Goal Is To Be A Guide Dog
Our ultimate goal is to get Stetson to be a full fledged guide dog. However, if he doesn’t choose to be a guide dog we will welcome him back home and get him (hopefully) involved with therapy dogs.
Stetson will be heading to the GDA campus in Sylmar, CA on May 10th to start his formal guide dog training.
Have you raised a guide dog, service dog, or any kind of working dog? Do you have any pointers for me when I drop Stetson off at the GDA campus? That is beside bring a lot of tissues.