[nagdu] Owner Trained Versus Guide Dog School Program in order to get a guide dog

Julie J. julielj at neb.rr.com
Wed Jul 23 12:28:36 UTC 2014

I agree with Tami.  the customization and flexibility is the main 
difference.  Well, other than the obvious, an owner trained dog is trained 
by the owner and a program trained dog is trained by a program trainer.

As an owner trainer, I have the flexibility to use the training methods that 
I prefer.  I can feed the food I choose.  I can vaccinate and provide health 
care that I feel is best for my dog.  I can use equipment that I choose. 
And I can choose the specific skills to train my dog, which are most 
meaningful to me.  For example my current guide is not trained for 
escalators because there isn't a single escalator in the town where we live. 
It doesn't make sense to spend a lot of time on that skill when I won't be 
using it.   However he is quite skilled at sidewalkless travel and targeting 
locations of interest across large open spaces because those are skills I 
need and use frequently.

With a dog from a program you get training that is a little bit of 
everything so it will fit the widest possible range of possible handlers. 
Nothing wrong with that and certainly that training can be customized when 
you get home or you can make your needs known to the program so they can do 
a bit more advanced training with you while your there on the things you'll 
be using most often.  Still, it's like Rebecca's house analogy.  If you 
purchase an existing house, you can do some remodeling, paint or put in new 
carpet, but the main structure and foundation remains.  With an owner 
trained dog/a custom built home, you design every element exactly as you 
like all the way through the process.

The trade off is a load of time, effort and resources.  Training your own 
dog takes an incredible amount of work.  You won't be doing much in the way 
of fun, career advancement, family expansion or personal projects while you 
are training a guide dog.  It requires daily effort in the way of daily 
training sessions at home, on the streets and eventually in public places. 
You have to think ahead to what the dog is ready for, what skills are 
needed, how to teach them, what to do when plan A doesn't work, who to call 
for help, and assessing your progress honestly.  You will need a lot of 
resources to be able to owner train your own guide.  It costs money.  It 
doesn't seem like a lot to me from month to month, but it most certainly 
does add up.  However because you aren't spending a whole lot of time on 
frivolous entertainment, perhaps it all averages out?  I'd still plan on a 
couple thousand dollars to cover expenses.  You also need some people to 
help you.  I don't mean to help you train the dog.  that would be kind of 
nice, but it isn't called owner training for nothing.  Even if you do find a 
trainer to assist you, it is still you making all the decisions about what 
training to be doing.  Mostly though, I mean you need people to give you 
some honest feedback about your dog.  Sometimes you will be so enthralled 
with the process you will miss the forest because the trees get in the way. 
Having someone watch you with the dog and providing feedback helps 
incredibly.  the person doesn't have to be super educated about guide dogs. 
You'll be able to sift through their comments and sort what is a legitimate 
concern with what is lack of understanding about guides.  Perhaps the most 
important thing you need from your people  is support.  Owner training is 
incredibly mentally and emotionally taxing.  You need people to reassure you 
that you aren't nutters, yes, I can guarantee there will come a day when you 
question your sanity.  You need people to talk to when things get tough and 
you need to do some problem solving.   You also need people who will give 
you a high five when things are awesome, people who will celebrate with you.


-----Original Message----- 
From: Tami Jarvis via nagdu
Sent: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 10:49 PM
To: helga.schreiber26 at gmail.com ; NAGDU Mailing List,the National 
Association of Guide Dog Users
Subject: Re: [nagdu] Owner Trained Versus Guide Dog School Program in order 
to get a guide dog


Not a silly question at all! The difference between the owner-trained
dog and the program-trained dog once the training is completed is that
the owner-trained dog is likely to be more customized to the handler. A
program-trained dog can be customized to some degree once it goes home
with its new handler, depending on the skill of the handler and the
wishes of the program.

The differences in the process of ending up with a working guide are
more profound. To get a program guide, you have to fill out a bunch of
forms and jump through some hoops, wait to hear if and when you'll get
the dog, then go get it. More or less. Most programs will provide
transportation to their facility, room and board, and instruction in how
to use a guide dog and to handle your new dog in particular. Most will
send you home with a starter kit including grooming supplies, toys,
working gear, and even dog food. Follow up may include vet expenses, as
well as answers to questions or further training for you or your dog if
you need it to develop into a strong working team. You will start out
with an adult dog, raised specifically for the job, with a good set of
house manners, good social etiquette and task training. That's a very
generalized overview, of course. /smile/

To owner-train, you first have to find the right dog. This can take some
time, a lot of research, more time, more research, and often evaluating
a number of candidates before finding the right one. You may decide to
start with a puppy, so you have total control of its rearing, which
means you will be busy for about 2 years (depending on how fast your dog
learns and matures). Or you can get an older pup, which has pros and
cons. Getting your hands on a dog that is closer to adulthood will get
you a guide dog faster, but you have to watch out for emotional baggage.

You will need to then train the dog, which means every day, building the
skills for the job and the manners for public access. Some phases of
training are relatively dangerous, so you need to be aware and figure
out how to teach the dog to be safe without getting hurt in the process.
You will be buying your own gear, kibble, grooming equipment, paying all
vet expenses, stuff like that. At some point, you'll need to transition
from trainer to handler, which can be interesting. All along the way,
you need to be able to evaluate your dog for fitness and be ready to
wash it out if necessary. You will need to learn the laws thoroughly and
be ready and able to self-advocate.

The reasons people choose to owner-train instead of getting a guide from
a program vary. For myself, I can think of various and sundry items on
my list of reasons why, but when it comes down to it, I think I do it
because I want to. Also, I love training and the challenges and chills
and thrills and, well, all of it. /smile/

Again, that's a quick and dirty overview, very generalized.


On 07/22/2014 07:58 PM, Helga via nagdu wrote:
> Hi all! How are you all? I just wanted to ask you, what is the difference 
> between a owner trained and a guide dog school program in order to get a 
> guide dog? I’m just wondring since I’m plannin to get a guide dog next 
> year! Sorry for asking this silly question!, which I’m suppose to know! 
> the answer for! Hope to hear from you soon. Thanks and God bless!
> Helga Schreiber
> Fundraiser Coordinator for Phi Theta Kappa, Alpha Delta Iota chapter
> Member of National Federation of the Blind and Florida Association of 
> Blind Students
> Member of The International Networkers Team (INT)
> Independent Entrepreneur of the Company 4Life Research
> Phone: (561) 706-5950
> Email: helga.schreiber26 at gmail.com
> Skype: helga.schreiber26
> 4Life Website: http://helgaschreiber.my4life.com/1/default.aspx
> INT Website: http://int4life.com/
> "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that 
> whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16
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