Light into Europe Guide Dog Programme
What Is A Guide Dog?
A Guide Dog is a specially-trained dog, normally a Labrador or Golden Retriever (although some other breeds are used) which can provide assistance to someone living with blindness or vision impairment in order to give them independence and mobility. They provide companionship and support, allowing the user to move freely and live life. Guide Dogs help to:
- Locate and negotiate regular routes and destinations eg. the local shop
- Give someone the confidence to leave the house on their own
- Give someone the ability to go out and use public transport to gain or maintain employment
But it’s the also the unseen benefits that really make a difference.
“It’s true that for 20 years I lived alone in my apartment block. None of my neighbours knew me. Now that I have Heidi, everyone knows me.” Magda with Guide Dog Heidi
Our Guide Dog program is the only school training to international standards in Romania. We provide services within the local community that increase mobility, independence and quality of life.
The dogs complete a comprehensive, two to three-year, multi-stage training program to teach them the necessary skills they need to support someone with a vision impairment. This includes:
- Stop at curbs or stairs
- Negotiate obstacles in the street (eg. parked cars, pedestrians, trees)
- Indicating changes in elevation
- Locate a pedestrian crossing
- Find a door or a seat
- Boarding public transport
Because of this specialist training, it is extremely important that dogs are not distracted by members of the public while they are working.
Where Do We Get Our Guide Dog Puppies From?
Light into Europe breeds our own puppies from the Guide Dog breeding programme.
We currently keep female dogs for breeding and mate them with a male from a partner Guide Dog school around Europe. This allows us to maintain genetic diversity and avoid problems associated with inbreeding. Purebred Labradors or Labrador/Retriever cross are most commonly used in our Guide Dog program as they are calm, loyal and intelligent and have a proven record in training to become guides.
Before making a match, our Guide Dog team examine the health records, pedigree and behavioural characteristics of the breeding dogs to select the best match, in order to have the best potential future guide dogs here in Romania.
To ensure the very best chance of them succeeding in training and becoming a Guide Dog, there are several traits we look for including:
- Confidence (a timid or unsure dog will struggle to make the decisions required to guide someone effectively)
- Responsiveness (it is vital that a dog responds well to commands and requests)
- Focused and relaxed (not phased by everyday distractions)