A small yellow Labrador puppy sitting in an oversized Guide Dog harness.

Ninja Warriors /Woofers AKA Guide Dogs encounter all manner of obstacles and need intense training and focus to proceed to the next stage of their challenge.

After their early learning with their Puppy Raisers pups are returned to Guide Dogs at approximately 14 months old and their specific training begins.

Qualified Instructors carefully assess each dog for suitability.  It is imperative that they have the ability to concentrate and not be distracted by such things as food, noise, other animals or any other circumstance that may distress many pet dogs.  The criteria must be very strict as the personal safety of the vision impaired will be reliant upon them.

Having been selected the dogs undertake five months of intensive training to refine the complex skills required of them.  Some of these may not at first occur to many of us immediately:

Dogs are taught to walk in a straight line slightly in front and to the left-hand side of their handler.  They must stop at all kerbs and wait for the command before crossing roads.  Guide Dogs rely on their handlers for directional instructions; it is their job to follow these instructions whilst ensuring the way forward is safe.  To do this they need to be able to judge height and width up to six times their own to allow straightforward passage for themselves and their handlers.  Being able to lead their handlers to lifts and on to all forms of public transport is another aspect of their training.

Our amazing trainers work with infinite patience and persistence as they guide the Guides through their particular boot-camp, gradually introducing them to increasingly complex and busy situations to ensure that they are well rounded and confident as they continue on the road towards their ultimate goal.

Until training programs were established in SA dogs were flown to the National Centre for further training.  Whilst some principles have been refined and altered over the years the accompanying photographs illustrate the journey.