We spent the day at Guiding Eyes for the Blind Canine Development Center, where we volunteered at the Early Training & Socialization Program.
Because Guiding Eyes for the Blind is a 2022 Dogist Fund recipient, we plan to follow the journey of a guide dog from start to finish, and early socialization is a HUGE part of that. The Early Training & Socialization Program is a crucial program that helps the puppies get the right start on the long path to becoming guide dogs.
So what does early socialization for puppies mean, you may ask?
Basically, we want these dogs to be confident and comfortable in ANY situation, and it’s our job as volunteers to make sure that happens. This means having humans handle the dogs as much as possible – they call this “puppy massaging”, which is officially our dream job.
"As guides, they will need to exhibit confidence, resilience, and a strong bond to the human half of the guide dog team."
Puppy massaging consists of touching the dogs all over – ears, paws, belly, legs – to ensure each dog is extremely comfortable with human touch. And not just comfortable, but making sure they enjoy it too!
Another way to socialize the pups is in their early socialization rooms. These rooms are covered with different toys, objects, and obstacles for the puppies to explore. There are ladders, slides, and bridges so they can build their confidence through new experiences. There are fireworks noises playing and metal cups to play with so they get used to loud noises, and there are all kinds of toys so they are exposed to different textures!
An Early Socializer (that was us!) works with the puppies and introduces them to these new environments and experiences. These repeated positive new experiences help the pups build confidence and develop simple but important skills.
But – let's be honest – being a puppy is tiring! So a lot of the time was also spent napping. Honestly, we don't blame them.
All of this may sound silly and fun, but each step of this process helps these dogs prepare for their very important future jobs – being a guide dog for the blind or visually impaired.
Plus, we got to play with puppies all day, so we’re not complaining.
Guiding Eyes for the Blind provides guide dogs to people with vision loss. They are passionate about connecting exceptional dogs with individuals for greater independence. Since their founding in 1954, they’ve graduated almost 10,000 teams. They’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with all services provided completely free of charge. At Guiding Eyes, they rely upon the contributions of generous donors to fulfill their mission. Our goal for 2022 is to raise the cost of preparing one student and dog to become a Guiding Eyes team - $50,000! To donate, click here.