Training with a guide dog
Guide dog training is as important for you as it is for your dog. You’ll need to learn specific cues that your dog has been trained to respond to, which will help you work together and form a close, successful partnership.
At Guide Dogs, we individually design training programmes to meet the needs of you and your dog. You’ll undertake two weeks training away from home, usually at a hotel, which we will pay for. This is followed by another three weeks back at your home and surrounding area. In some circumstances you may need all training to be done at home, but we’ll discuss this with you as part of the application process.
As part of training, you’ll go on walks with your dog. These will give you the opportunity to practise the techniques you need and gain experience working with your dog in a variety of environments and everyday situations.
Learning to look after your dog
You don’t need any previous experience of keeping or caring for a dog – we’ll teach you everything you need to know during training. The things you’ll learn include:
- general dog-handling skills
- feeding the correct diet
- exercising while on the harness and free running
- interacting and playing with your dog
- understanding dog behaviour
- cleaning up after your dog
- organising regular visits to the vet
- meeting your dog’s welfare needs
Once you’ve successfully completed training, we’ll ask you to enter into a legally binding contract with Guide Dogs.
Throughout your working partnership you’ll be supported by one of our Mobility Instructors, who will visit you either at home or work. You may also be asked to attend group top-up days, where you and your dog will work with your local team to maintain a safe and enjoyable working partnership.
How are guide dogs trained?
The guide dog relationship is all about trust – the trust between the dog and person with sight loss, but also the trust our dogs have in the people who care for and train them at every stage in their lives.
To build that trust, we are committed to using Positive Reinforcement Training (PRT) in all our dog's training and management.
We use our own Standardised Training for Excellent Partnerships (STEP) programme, which uses the principles of positive reinforcement to teach our dogs everything they need to learn to be successful and happy in their lives.
We always reward the behaviour we want, whether that’s a food treat, praise from their handler, or a play with their favourite toy. Each dog is different, so we take the time to find out what works best for them.
Our guide dogs learn that training is rewarding, which means they are engaged with us and look forward to their work. This encourages them to problem-solve and builds their confidence, resulting in motivated, happy dogs who have the best possible preparation for their future as life-changers.