Members of Bingham Business Club were given an insight at their last meeting into the training and working life of a guide dog for the blind.
Terry Rodgers of Radcliffe-on-Trent was at the meeting with his guide dog Emett, a five-year-old black Labrador. He said the purpose of a guide dog’s training was to prepare it for the sights and sounds it would encounter throughout its working life. Puppies receive their initial training from a puppy walker, and one of the first things it learns is to go the toilet on command, in a designated area. Specialised training at a guide dog centre begins when a dog is about 15 months old. This includes learning up to 50 different commands. A pet dog typically knows fewer than 10.
When Terry was first matched with Emett, they spent an intensive two weeks together, living in a hotel in Nottingham and training in the city for long hours every day. At the end they were licensed to work together. Emett’s specially-fitted rigid-handled harness enables Terry to sense his every movement, and feel exactly where he is.
Guide dogs are able to remember many regular routes, learning by repetition.
“Where I live, in Radcliffe, he knows the route that I am going to take, say, to a certain shop, and he will take me there.”
He said the biggest problem he and Emett faced when out and about was obstacles on pavements, such as parked cars and wheelie bins.
“He is trained to take me round when he can, and if it is safe, but it’s not always possible.” Sometimes this means having to retrace their steps, cross a road, and cross back later.
The pair go everywhere together, including on a plane and on two cruises.