My name is Bailey. I have two soft ears, four legs, golden fur, a wet nose and a wagging tail, can you guess what I am?
That’s right, I’m a dog!
i’m no ordinary pet dog though. I am a special dog. With a very important job to do.
I where a harness that has a long handle attached to it that a person can hold onto. That person is visually impaired which means their eyes don’t work properly. My owner is completely blind so she cannot see a thing so she depends on me to walk beside her and make sure that she doesn’t walk into objects.
Can you guess what those objects might be?
[dustbins, lamposts, traffic lights, things left on the pavement, holes in the ground, roadworks.]
I listen to my owner and she tells me where to go. I just ensure she gets there safely. She’ll tell me to find left, find right, go straight on, forward to start, wait to stop, stay to wait, and find doors or the crossings or kerbs. I wait at the kerbs for her to tell me to cross when she thinks its safe or the beep sounds. I never know where we’re going so its always a surprise.
I’m five years old and have been a working guide dog for three and a half years. But before I qualified with my owner, I had to be trained to do all of the things I can do now.
When I was born I had eight brothers and sisters. we were checked over to make sure we were healthy and sent to a family to learn how to do all of the doggy things, like go to the bathroom outside, sit on command, lay down, stay and walk nicely on the lead.
I had to wear a jacket to show I was a guide dog puppy and in training to become an adult guide dog. That meant people couldn’t pet me without permission in case I got too excited and silly. I wasn’t allowed to be fed scraps of food or anything that wasn’t my puppy food to maintain a good, healthy weight. No one wants an unhealthy dog to guide them.
My family took me to restaurants and encouraged me to lay under the table and made sure I behaved myself while they ate. they took me on buses and trains and in the car to get me used to the sounds, smells and sights. The outside world is a very scary place so as soon as I began to learn all of the different sights, sounds, smells and environments, the better. I was taken to busy shopping areas, train stations, into lifts and up and down busy staircases. People would come from guide dogs to check I was doing OK and when I got to a year old, I was taken away from my family. The curiosity of learning new things, playing with my family was over and I was taken to kennels to start the next part of my training.
When I was in the kennels, it made me sad. I didn’t like having all of those other dogs and I missed being with a family. The kennels were nice enough with a comfortable bed and blanket, fresh water and clean floor. This training was much harder. The commands of sitting, wait, down, up were now used all of the time and we were trained to explore small areas, go over unfamiliar feeling ground, or walk near flashing lights or loud sounds to get us used to things we would come across once we became grown up guide dogs. Whenever we did something good, our trainers would pat us, tell us we did good and give us a treat which was usually a piece of our dried food.
We were only a year old when this training began and it only lasted between three to four months before we continued onto our last stages of training which was called advanced training.
The harness was put on us and the human trainer held onto the handle which felt very strange at first. They started using other commands to instruct us on where to go. We did all of our training outside on the street and within public buildings as we would be doing once we qualified.
Here are some of the commands my trainer and eventually my owner would use.
find left, which would tell us to find left.
find right, would tell us to find right.
Straight on, which would mean to continue to go straight ahead.
Forward, which would mean to start walking.
Wait, which meant to stop.
Find an object, such as a door or a crossing.
steady, which meant to calm down or slow our speed.
There are more but those are just a few to mention. But remember, don’t use these commands with a guide dog, they are only meant to be used by the owner. If we start listening to other people, we may not listen to our owners as well and this could be dangerous to them. So please don’t use any command on a guide dog either in harness or out of harness.
My trainer was good and firm and when I was a year and a haf she took me to meet a lady who might become my new owner. my trainer let me out of the van and we walked into the house. I was so excited to meet someone new and so my instructor harnessed me up and we went out for a walk together.
Suddenly, I had another person on the end of the handle which was very strange. But we worked well together and a few weeks later I was at the training hotel with her and we worked as a team to become qualified dog and owner.
Once I moved to her house, I got a nice comfortable bed and whenever I didn’t have my harness or lead on, I was able to play, cuddle and be a regular dog. I just wasn’t allowed to eat anything but my dog food and the occasional pigs ear, carrot or apple. My owner gives me those once a week and she takes me for a nice long run where I can sniff and generally be a regular dog. I have lots of toys to play with and chew on a bone to keep my teeth clean. I get brushed every day or so so my fur keeps shiny and its always a nice time to spend with my owner. She takes me to the vets to make sure I’m healthy and always takes care of me when I’m sick. She’ll tickle my tummy along with the rest of the family who always give me nice pats and tickle my ears.
I sometimes am mischievous but my owner will tell me off when I’m bad but she loves me very much. We go into busy shopping malls, walk down busy streets, go on the buses and trains together and my owner can do all of this because she has me to see for her.
All those months where I was learning different environments helped me to take her wherever she wants to go and we always do it safely. i’m not allowed to be stroked in my harness unless my owner tells the other humans they can do so, so always remember to ask. And never feed me because it encourages me to eat food off of the ground and that might make me sit. ever give me commands because I should only listen to my owner. I’m a friendly dog and as long as you ask my owner if you can pet me and she says yes, then I would love the petting and attention.
Thank you for listening to my story and I hope you are always nice to guide dogs, we do nothing but help those who cannot see to get around just like you!