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Labrador Retrievers

Aliases: Lab, English Retriever, St. John's Dog, Black Water Dog

Labrador Retriever For Sale

Training a Labrador Retriever as a Guide or Assistance Dog

Topic: Labrador Retrievers

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Filed under Dogs
Tags: Labrador Retriever, Training, Assistance Dogs

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It is estimated throughout the world the Labrador Retrievers and Lab crosses are the most popular breed used for assistance and guide dogs. According to guide dog trainers, approximately 60-70 percent of all assistance and guide dogs are Labs or Lab hybrids, with Labradoodles rapidly gaining popularity. Labradoodles are a cross between a Standard Poodle and a Labrador Retriever, resulting in a longer, curly haired dog what is very low shedding and often hypoallergenic.

As with hunting dog training, the natural traits and temperament of the Lab makes them an excellent guide or assistant dog that has a calm disposition yet a very well regarded intelligence. These qualities are not perfectly natural for all Labs and the training requires a very specific type of temperament. The dogs have to be smart and independent, good at problem solving but also highly attuned to the needs and commands of the individual. In addition the dogs have to also be very tolerant of all types of situations, including how to behave in situations where dogs may not typically be expected to be.

Not surprisingly, the first steps in training any type of service dog beings with the dogs at the earliest possible stage. Puppies at a very early age, even just a few months old, are placed with families that are used to assess the puppy's temperament, ability to learn and ability to socialize. These families typically include children of different ages, other dogs and even other pets. The family works with the puppy in a variety of different settings, including obedience classes.

The key foundation of service guide training is obedience work. Typically the puppies are evaluated by the service dog trainers during the early stages of the introduction to obedience. Dogs that show any signs of aggression, shyness or other types of temperament training are dropped from the program, but are still in high demand as pets. Obedience work starts with the typical basics, but then progresses to more and more complex routines and commands as the puppy masters the basics.

Socialization is going to be a key component of this training right from the very first session. Puppies and young dogs will accompany their handlers with them into virtually every situation, including escalators, crowded sidewalks, noisy traffic areas and of course around other dogs and pets. The essence of this type of training is allowing the dog to become desensitized to anything, preventing the dog from reacting with either aggression or fear when they are actually providing assistance to their future owners. In addition the dogs get used to being handled, petted and approached by a wide variety of individuals. This is all essential to the successful integration of a service dog into an individual's life.

From the basic obedience a high level of individual training then occurs for the dog. Typically by this stage the puppy or dog has been temperament tested and is considered to be a good candidate for a service dog. They will also start wearing the vest of the service dog, allowing them to enter into areas that are normally restricted to other pets. Dogs at this stage of the program will also learn how to ride public transportation, how to fly on planes and how to get around office buildings and other public venues.

Service dogs are also taught very specific skills. Assistance dogs will often be taught how to stand to allow the owner to use the dog to support movement, or even to position themselves to allow easy getting in and out of wheelchairs or other devices. Assistance dogs and guide dogs may also be taught to retrieve specific items by name. This is a very unique type of training that allows the dog to learn several dozen human words for various household items. In addition dogs may also learn to open drawers or cupboards to retrieve specific items.

Advanced types of training may also include teaching the dog to fetch a phone or press an alarm device on a command or cue from the owner. Some dogs are even taught to respond to sounds of distress or even to their owner falling on the ground either by barking to signal others, retrieving a phone or other type of communication device or pressing an emergency alarm. It is absolutely amazing the level of understanding that these dogs obtain.

After the dog is well into their training program, which may be done by volunteers, professional trainers or even specialized programs in prison systems, the dogs are paired with their perspective new owners. Prison training systems have become very popular as it is a wonderful opportunity for the prisoners to learn about dog training and to gain unconditional love and attention from the dogs, while also having the responsibility of training a dog. Most prison systems that use this program consider it to be highly beneficial to both the inmates as well as the dogs, plus the prisoners know that they are contributing to special needs individuals within the community.

This dog and new owner training, which is really designed to teach the owners how to work with their dog as well as to start the bonding process between the assistance dog and the individual, typically lasts only a few sessions to a few weeks. During this process the trainers will go with the assistance or guide dog and the individual to actually provide on the spot help, as well as provide information on how to handle and care for the dog on a daily basis.

Most training programs maintain a strong and regular connection with every individual that they pair a dog with. In some cases the interaction between the owner and the dog doesn't work, and the training program then tries to assist in the transition or finds a more suitable dog type or temperament to suit the owner. Typically this situation is very rare as the trainers are very capable of evaluating the owner's needs and matching them with a dog that is both similarly tempered and specially trained.

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