Our dogs are raised and trained to change people’s lives with their intelligence. They undergo a rigorous training program from puppyhood, working in extremely demanding situations that requires their utmost concentration.
Being raised confident and happy will help them acquire the skills they need at the second part of their training. In Liberty, we do not use physical punishment as part of the training process. Instead, we celebrate the results of positive reinforcement making training enjoyable and fun, while building trust and willingness to repeat positive behavior. With our proper care and industry leading methods, we help our dogs acquire problem-solving skills.
Each dog is unique and not all dogs are suitable to become guide dogs. When identified through the training process, we make sure to find the appropriate path for them.
Our guide dogs are raised and trained to play an essential role in the lives of blind or visually impaired people. Good temperament combined with our training procedures produce dogs that love their jobs and perform their duties happily. Stepping into their role is very challenging and it takes a remarkable process. Here is how we do it.
At the age of 14 – 18 months and after being considered to meet the specifications, our dogs return to the Liberty Assistance and Guide Dogs training center to begin a period of formal training that marks the beginning of an amazing career.We train our dogs using positive reinforcement to enhance motivation and confidence that will eventually result in the ability to solve problems.
Training starts with simple instructions and more complicated ones are introduced and learned as the educational process evolves. Our Guide dogs are trained to get their partner from point A to point B following the safest path. They are trained to walk around obstacles in the travel path, to locate requested destinations and respond to commands requiring more of the dog’s initiative such as “find the door/step/seat ect.” They navigate safely all forms of public transport practiced during training i.e. bus, train, taxi, airplane, ferry, tram. They also follow travel routes safely in unstructured environments such as beach, bush, roadside. They even adjust their walking speed to suit the environmental circumstances. Our dogs learn to ignore distractions that interfere with their duties (i.e. cats, other animals, food) and behave approprietly when required to visit places where proper behavior is important, such as restaurants or shops.
A significant part of our training includes Intelligent Disobedience. That means that guide dogs are trained to disobey the owner’s instructions due to judging it unsafe or potentially harmful. For example, when a blind person wishes to cross a street and issues an instruction to the guide dog to do so, the dog should refuse to move when such an action would put the person in danger. The dog understands that this contradicts the learned behavior to respond to the owner’s instructions. However, he or she is trained to insist despite of the handler’s persistence and possible loud verbal or strong physical instructions. The guide dogs have the capacity to understand that they are performing such an action for the welfare of the person.
When fully trained and suitable to work as a guide dog, the last part of the education involves both the person and the dog interacting in real life situations. Matching the right dog with the right person is key.
The matching process can take some time, as many factors are taken into consideration: character, temperament, walking speed, lifestyle and environment. Once a successful match is found, guide dog and potential owner spend 30-45 days working with an instructor who trains the team together and helps them build and retain new habits practicing daily with consistency and empowerment. During this process, a strong bond develops that enhances the relationship profoundly.
For Attica residents, training takes place in the person’s home while non-Attica residents, have the opportunity of a simulation of everyday life with their guide dog at Liberty school facilities, while receiving thorough training.
Having completed that part of the training successfully, the dog and the owner will start officially their life together.Liberty provides full support to its alumni. Students becoming part of our alumni association, receive the following benefits: periodic visits and consulting from Liberty instructor, dedicated support when needed, financial assistance for veterinary care (if they are facing challenges), and when the time comes for their guide to retire, we can discuss the possibility of a successor dog.