Winnipeg volunteers prepared 8 future guide dogs

Winnipeg volunteers prepared 8 future guide dogs, Iryna Chyrkova

8 future guide dogs are already preparing to leave Winnipeg for their next stage of training.

Jane McSwiggan explains that she has been training Grace, an 11-month-old golden retriever, since April. In February, Grace is going to leave for further studies and it will be very difficult for a woman to say goodbye.

Jane joined this program in 2017. She had a cat and she had no idea what it was like to have a dog but she really wanted to help.

"I've always wanted to do something like this — to have a puppy and to raise a puppy, and so when I saw that CNIB was actually beginning to develop the program here, I put my name in right away," the woman said.

Many people who need a guide dog often find a good option outside Canada, as local dogs do not have a good level of training. Now there are about 50 dogs in the program, they have all completed the initial training plan and are ready to continue their professional training.

The curator of the program said that she plans to find 60 puppies for the new year and to prepare them for training with the help of volunteers.

"If we didn't have volunteers we would not be training as many dogs," she said. "There's so many people that want and need a guide dog and they just haven't been able to get one yet. So we're just helping alleviate some of the wait times."

The work of the volunteer is to teach the dog to be adapted to communicate with people, to understand all the main commands and to know how to behave in society.

"Socialization is a big part of it. If they don't get socialized early enough then they can be scared of a lot of things," said Critch.

Volunteers need to work with the dog for at least two hours a day and to work out different scenarios. They must be over 18 years old and it is desirable to have a house with a fenced territory.

Jane McSwiggan also added:

"I have to be very responsible for her and that sometimes can be a hard thing, when other people want to spend time with her and treat her like a pet. I've taken her everywhere. She's managed the bus, she's managed busy downtowns, sirens, noises."

The next stage of training will teach the dog to be the eyes of a person.

"They'll learn to find the curb, locate empty chairs, locate buttons, and just really be sound and not nervous in any sort of situation."- Critch explained.

Training lasts about 4-5 months and about 60% of the dogs go through it very successfully. The remaining dogs will become ambassador or buddy dogs.

Volunteers receive full support for the program during dog training: they are helped with getting veterinary services and buying good food for the pet.

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