Congratulations to Kim Ryan, Tasmania’s Coordinator for Guide Dogs Services who’s puppy program won the prestigious Derek Freeman Scholarship from the International Guide Dog Federation last month for her work on Guide Dog puppy development. The project aims to encourage the older Guide Dog pups to mentor the younger generation Guide Dog puppies.
The emphasis of these strategies was adapted to concentrate on the end product ‘the working guide dog’ early in the puppy development program.
Group training sessions were introduced, and incidentally through this process young pups were “mentored” by older dogs (including the formal training dogs) which noticeably produced a calming effect on the younger, more excited pups.
Confident dogs were then used to introduce new environments to young pups, including escalator and bus travel, allowing them to adapt quicker and with less stress during these sessions.
The presence of older dogs created a positive learning environment with very little handler input required to achieve the desired outcomes in the younger pups. Anxiety levels in younger pups decreased in these often complex environments.
As we are a small program (intake of 14 pups each year), we do not have many opportunities to trial new techniques without risking program integrity and it is important that we provide all pups on the program with a high chance of success. We also lack opportunities to learn from other colleagues and professionals in the field, as very few animal related courses are run within the state.
The Derek Freeman Scholarship supports the practical application and academic endeavors in the practice of canine breeding and puppy-raising programs undertaken by accredited and applicant organisations of the International Guide Dog Federation (link opens in new window) and is award bi-annually.
Kim will be off to Croatia in March for a two week intensive to learn from their program already utilizing this model and exchange ideas.
Well done Kim we are proud of you!