OccuPaws offers a unique training experience to the clients we serve. All of our placement training sessions are conducted in the comfort of the client’s home environment. This means that a blind individual does not have to leave their home, their job and their family to get the training required to safely and effectively use one of the most incredible mobility tools available – a guide dog. In some cases, acquiring a guide dog may affect the lives of other family members, and depending on the client and the individual situation, the family may also partake in some of the guide dog training experience.
Once an OccuPaws’ puppy has earned his or her CGC (Canine Good Citizen) certification, passes our intensive health screenings and graduates from the Community Puppy Program, they start the two to four month long phase of Formal Harness Training. During the Formal Harness Training, the aspiring guide dogs reside in the home of our Licensed Guide Dog Instructor. All of our dogs are trained on an individual basis and are worked extensively on a daily basis. While the dogs are learning guide dog mechanics, they are taught to avoid obstacles, indicate changes in elevation, respect traffic and much, much more. OccuPaws has also integrated “targeting” as a major part of the formal harness training. Our dogs are taught to find many objects for their blind partners such as escalators, elevators, stairs, empty chairs, counters, empty stalls in public restrooms, find inside and find their way out of buildings and so much more.
It is the art of the match when it comes to pairing the perfect working team. Our application process and mobility screening helps us match the right guide dog with the right person. We take into consideration: lifestyle, activity level, walking speed and personality to name a few. Once we match the right dog with the right person, the placement training can take place. Our “in community” placement program is typically a two to three week training period. The length of the client’s training is defined by the individual’s needs, ability and experience. Our clients will learn how to safely use their guide dogs in many settings such as rural, residential, city and major metropolitan locations. All aspects of guide dog mechanics, philosophy, public transportation, problem solving and service dog access and etiquette will be covered during placement training.
Technical support and follow up for the working life of each OccuPaws’ team is available and at the ready when requested. We take great pride in our small size and our ability to effectively support our guide dog users. If you would like to apply for an OccuPaws’ Guide Dog, please complete and submit our Student Application below. If you have any questions regarding the Formal Harness Training program, please contact us! We are happy to help.