New recruits presented with their Guide Dogs harness

Wednesday, 7th March, 2018

Karen Hayter, puppy development manager with new graduates (from left) Orlando, Page, Nick, Nicci, Ollie and Olive. Photo: Karleen Minney

AFTER months of intensive training these six labradors have graduated at a ceremony in Canberra to become a Guide Dog. 

The dogs, Nicci, Olive, Page, Ollie, Orlando and Nick were given their first harness after spending five months undergoing intensive training at the Guide Dog centre.

NSW/ACT puppy development manager Karen Hayter said before undergoing the training, the dogs were cared for by volunteer puppy raisers from eight weeks of age and were taught basic obedience. 

"Once a puppy is born they go out to puppy raising families and they stay with those families for about 12 months," Ms Hayter said.

"After that, they come into the centre for a three week assessment period and if successful they have about 20 weeks of training.

She said the six graduates would be matched with a person in the community who was vision impaired and waiting for a Guide Dog.

"We have a list of characteristics of each dogs and then we have specialised guide dog instructors that go and assess the clients and then we match which would be the best matching for the dog and for the client.

"We look at things like size, speed of the dog, sometimes it's down to the colour of the dog. If someone has an eyesight where they see black dogs or yellow dogs better then we bring that into consideration as well. 

According to the organisation, everyday, 28 Australians are diagnosed with vision loss that cannot be corrected. Of that, nine will become blind.

Once the dogs are matched, Guide Dogs spend weeks working closely with the person and their dog. 

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT's Canberra team manager Patrick Shaddock said it costs more than $35,000 to breed, raise and train each Guide Dog.

He said the ceremony was to raise awareness of the program and to spread the message that the organisation wanted to get "more dogs to more people". 

"The presentation is a celebration of the dedicated training over the past two years to get these life-changing dogs to the all-important working stage of their life," Mr Shaddock said. 

"With the demand for Guide Dogs' services increasing due to growing numbers of people having trouble getting around as a result of sight loss, we're incredibly grateful for the support we receive from the community."

Canberra Times

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