1. Today (April 30) is International Guide Dog Day.
2. It’s a day to celebrate guide dogs - coz you gotta admit, they’re pretty damn amazing.
3. In Australia, Labradors and Golden Retrievers are the main breeds used as guide dogs, mostly because of their temperament and intelligence.
4. Puppies bred to be guide dogs have to go through a rigorous process before they can start work.
5. When they are eight weeks old, a vet checks their health and suitability for work as a guide dog, and if they’re given the go ahead they go to live with specially selected “puppy raisers” for the next 12 months.
6. Puppy raisers help socialise the future guide dogs, teach them obedience and get them used to the sights, sounds and smells they will encounter as working dogs.
7. But most importantly, they give them lots of love and attention and help them become confident and happy dogs.
8. The puppies are also visited by officers from guide dog organisations who take them on training walks and check their progress.
9. When they’re 14 months old, the puppies go to the Guide Dogs Centre to spend two weeks being trained and assessed.
10. They are assessed on their commitment to their work, especially their concentration skills and initiative.
11. Puppies that don’t pass the guide dog test are sometimes turned into therapy pets - companion animals for people who are experiencing difficulties due to age, illness or disability.
12. If they aren’t able to fulfill either of these roles, their puppy raisers are given the chance to adopt them as pets.
13. If the puppies are considered good potential guide dogs, they go through five months of intensive training.
14. They are taught skills like stopping at all kerbs, boarding public transport, sitting quietly when necessary and walking in a straight line without being distracted.
15. Once they have successfully completed training, they’re matched with their person.
16. When a guide dog has its harness on, it’s working - so it’s important not to distract it by trying to pet it or get its attention, or letting your dog go near it.
17. But guide dogs get plenty of down time when the harness comes off and they can play, rest and recharge.
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