May 18, 2024


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The dog later also shows the owner the stairs. For that you have to practice.
The dog later also shows the owner the stairs. For that you have to practice. © Thousand Friends, Judith

Guide dogs are more than just an aid for some visually impaired people. This animal helps with sense of direction in daily life and is often a true friend. But how do these dogs actually learn their jobs?

VISSELHOVEDE – “Train the trainer” is a well-known catchphrase in adult education. Translated, it means “to train a trainer” and is often called trainer training. Kristin Goetzen is an expert at this very profession. She is an animal trainer from Wisselhövede Kettenburg. However, she no longer works directly with animal owners and specializes in training professional animal trainers. Perhaps that’s enough of a story. Additionally, Goetzen is currently training her 18-week-old Labradoodle, Sunny. Sunny is supposed to be a blind guide dog. And this also requires training. The dog needs to learn a lot and, above all, know a lot so that it can later “work” not as a trainer, but as an active helper.

perfect basic obedience

This young dog has been living with Goetzen since April. She is preparing for her future life as a guide dog. This situation was made possible through a friend of mine who is an animal trainer from Austria who provides guide dogs and assistance dogs to people who want to adopt them. “First, the dog must learn perfect basic obedience,” says Goetzen. It should be something you can relax into, take off, and “function” in your daily life. Her special training will be added later. For example, dogs can help blind people cross the road safely by pointing out curbs and searching for and finding traffic lights. She also learns to indicate stairs.

To learn all this, Sonny lives with Götzen for some time, but then they have to part again. “But I’m happy. Preparing the dog is an exciting job,” the trainer said. She has been in the industry for 18 years and has met many dogs. Last year, she founded the TuCKi Center, which is dedicated to training animal trainers. “After 18 years, it’s time to build something new. The task of training guide dogs and, above all, laying the foundation for training, is also a new task.”

During his training, Sunny learns to locate and operate traffic lights on his own.
During his training, Sunny learns to locate and operate traffic lights on his own. ©Thousand Friend

Such a trained guide dog costs between 40,000 and 45,000 euros, while an assistance dog costs “only” 30,000 euros. Goetzen reports that the cost of such dogs is typically paid for through individuals or foundations and is rarely covered by health insurance companies. Training takes two to two-and-a-half years, and the dog is handed over to its final owner. Until then, it’s important to let your animal know everything. All places that a blind dog owner will later visit, such as a doctor’s surgery, supermarket or social center, must be able to be known to the dog as a ‘normal environment’. In addition, there is public transportation such as trains, buses, and taxis, and your dog should also be familiar with many other public places. This is by no means easy. For example, dogs are generally not allowed in supermarkets. Clinics are also usually taboo. “So I’m looking for someone to invite me along with the dog,” Götzen emphasizes.

Sunny wears a blanket that says “Service Dog in Training,” and we mean it seriously. This way everyone will know right away that the dog is more than just a pet dog. The Labradoodle breed chosen was chosen intentionally. “Labradors are known for their friendly personalities, and Poodles are very docile. Also, thanks to their specialized fur, Poodles are not a problem for people with allergies.” It is also an important discussion when visiting many other facilities.”

dogs can be dogs too

The person who takes over the trained dog also has a lot to learn. For example, you must learn how to read your dog’s signals. You also need to answer the question of when to reward your dog. You’ll need to learn the entirety of how to handle your dog, including how to use leashes, walking aids, and harnesses in some cases. Dogs don’t just need to learn to be confident and gentle companions, either. “Such dogs also have to learn to walk relatively slowly next to humans,” Goetzen says. This is because blind people walk down the street at a different speed than sighted people. There are many aspects that make up the complex training of a dog.

I’m happy because preparing the dog is a fun task.

“Of course, considering her age, she should still be a growing dog and can continue to grow,” the animal trainer added. Training is thorough and takes time. Sunny’s training is done through positive reinforcement, meaning it’s reward-based and without penalties, she added. Goetzen would appreciate it if owners of supermarkets, clinics, social facilities and other places would invite Sunny to help him prepare for the job. She would also like to experience rescue work and firefighting activities with her dog.

“Unfortunately, dogs are still not allowed in many rooms, even if that dog will later lead the life of a blind person,” she knows. Her trainer can be contacted on 0177/2917171 or via her Hallo@tucki-zentrum.de.



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