In February of 2017 I decided to retire my seventh guide dog, Africa. Affie, as Karen and I call her, was not seeing quite as well as I would like. Also, she seemed to be more easily distracted than in the past. So, I began the process to retire her and to obtain a new guide dog. I have explained this elsewhere.
As you may know, Guide Dogs for the Blind breeds their own dogs from the GDB breeding pool. Dogs are selected to be guides based on many characteristics including temperament, walking pace, ability to work in all kinds of situations, work without being distracted by outside issues and size. This is a simplistic list, but you get the idea.; Not every dog can be a guide dog. In fact, even with the most popular breed, the Labrador Retriever, only %50 of the dogs who begin the process ever succeed and go on to work with blind handlers. I like to describe it this way: Just as with humans not every dog is cut out to perform a job. Guiding is extremely stressful work for a dog. The chosen dogs take their jobs very seriously. They need a tremendous amount of praise as well as other kinds of rewards which I will describe later. Continue reading