Training is a continuous process that includes teaching the dog the concepts of guiding in small steps and building upon previous lessons with many repetitions in a great variety of situations.
Dogs sent to guide dog training after IFT are assigned to a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor, who will develop a relationship with the dog through play, obedience, and general time together. The instructor will work with each dog for three to four months. A guide dog in training is ready for placement with a person with vision loss when the dog responds reliably and safely to all work situations they will encounter while guiding.
Although training is a continuous process, it can logically be thought of in four phases, with each dog working through the phases at their own pace.
The future guide dog learns the basics of forward, wait, and “hup-up” (work in a straight line while avoiding obstacles and resuming the original direction). This work is conducted at the Guiding Eyes Training Center and its surrounding neighborhood.
Trainers reinforce the lessons of Phase 1, introduce new environments such as suburban villages, and unusual underfootings such as metal grates.
Dogs are asked to perform learned tasks on their own initiative, without assistance from the trainer. It requires continual praise and hundreds of repetitions in different situations before the dog understands what is expected and can respond reliably to cues.
Dogs fine-tune their skills and apply their knowledge to new situations in larger cities and more distracting environments. In this final phase, the dogs learn “intelligent disobedience,” such as refusing to obey a forward command if a car is approaching.