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GSDCV Member SEES the LIGHT at SEDA


GSDC MEMBER SEES the LIGHT at SEDA

The German Shepherd Dog Club of Victoria [GSDCV] is very fortunate to have Seeing Eye Dogs Australia [SEDA] Senior Trainer Gail Taylor as an Instructor at the Northern Branch of our Club. As a result the Branch was invited to participate in a competition with the prize being a day with Gail at SEDA in Kensington.

A long-time valued member David Risstrom was the fortunate winner of the competition. The dog used for most of the day was called Morgan, a fully trained dog just waiting to be placed with her client.

David was given a guided tour of the facilities, and a “short-handle” walk around the obstacle course. This enabled David to “get a feel” to what it is like to follow a dog in harness, and involved Gail  holding the harness and “guiding” him around.

Gail then took David over to see two ladies who had just finished their training with their first ever seeing eye dog. They were trained at the residence - a house across the road from the Centre, which is owned by SEDA - where clients undergo a three week intensive training course with their dogs. The ladies were Ann and Wilma, and their dogs were Quincy and Winnie, who had been trained by Gail’s Trainee Instructors. They had a cuppa and chatted to Ann and Wilma about their vision loss, and what a difference the dogs will make to their independence.

They then went for a walk around Kensington with Gail’s new young dog Bea, who was just starting to learn her guiding work. Gail was focusing on teaching her to stop and stand at every kerb, walk at a comfortable pace in the centre of the pavement, and respond to all commands issued.
Note: all training is done through the use of positive re-inforcement.

On their return they collected Morgan and David was placed in a full blindfold to “get a feel” of putting your trust in a dog. He was guided around a quiet route along the main road and passed the dogs home near SEDA. This was his first experience in putting his trust in “allowing a dog to be his eyes”. He did very well. It was an unusual situation to be in, although it is part of the trainers role to be under blindfold to assess each dog once it reaches a certain stage of its training. It was an extremely hot day, and the dog Morgan was under pressure to safely guide him around a medium length route with an unknown handler.

They returned safely back to the centre and David was shown some tricks by brood bitch Eadie, whom Gail has trained, and which include skate-boarding, crawling, walking backwards and 'talking' on command, plus many others. These have been taught to occupy her mind and also +helps with promotional fund-raising for SEDA.

It was a busy day for David, and I am sure he came away with a lot more understanding of the difficult job these dogs undertake.

We would like to thank both Gail and Seeing Eye Dogs Australia for providing this opportunity for one of our members to gain some knowledge and insight that goes into the training of a seeing eye dog, and also for the lovely gift pack given to David.

Phil Vincent.