Phase 2: Approximately weeks 1-2 (though there is a new program so instead of formal training taking 5 months it only takes about 2 months. Freya has been gone exactly 2 months today.)
In Phase 2 Formal Training begins using "The Balanced Education System of Training Guide Dogs" (note: this phrase is copywrited by GDB) this is also caled BEST Guide Dogs.
Food Reward and Clicker Training Techniques
The goal of food rewards is to motivate the dogs to make the right choices. It was introduced into the training sytem after several successful food reward trials where the dogs showed more confidence while working. Clicker training was adopted in 2005 and 2006. There is a clicker expert who continues to expand and modify to achieve the best results. (If any of you have any questions about what clicker training is please feel free to ask). During the first week of training a lot of time is spent with each dog teaching them collar response while using clicker training. Puppy raisers are not allowed to use clicker training with their puppies, but we do do a "Go to Bed" command that uses the same idea.
Obedience and Distraction Training:
The primary focus is on collar response and responses to praise. The collar cues the dog's bodyand the praise motivates the dogs to work. Martingale collars are used with all dogs starting training. Dogs requiring firm collar corrections (like Freya) while distracted also wear a slip collar. "Sit", "Down", "Heel" (formal recall), and "Stay" are introduced as precise positions in relation to the handler. "Come" (informal recall) is worked on leash in a variety of areas on campus. Precise "Heel" position while handler is moving is introduced at the same time the dog is learning to walk ahead of the handler when in harness. Once dogs show an understanding of the basic obedience work, distractions are introduced. Distractions include other dogs, food, overly friendly people, scents ect.
All dogs go through specialized training in how to accept food rewards and how to refuse food in all other situations.
Development of suitable responses to in depth grooming, pilling, bathing, ear cleaning, teeth cleaning, feeding, playing with a visually impaired handler begins.
Introduction to wearing the harness; dogs start with just standing with it on then walking around in relaxed settings with it on. Dogs who have sensitivity to wearing the harness are put on a TTouch program and war only the body piece until they accept it.
Designed to physically train dogs in the mechanics of a rhythmis gait/speed and maintenance of that gait while leading in harness. All dogs are closely monitored while on the treadmill to ensure that they are safe while working on it. Some dogs like the treadmill so much that they sometimes try to get on it before their turn. Dogs in treadmill training are intorduced to the "Forward", "Halt", and "Hopp-on" commands while learning to pull in harness.
Physical Agility Development:
Dogs are introduced to low height agility obstacles to promote confidence on unusual surfaces and develop coordination for stair and escalator work. Learnign how to physically back up in introduced at this time.
Dogs are walked on leash through gradually more challenging clearance courses with obstacles. Leash cues are used by the instructor to get the dog to move in the desired way. New dogs will not need to stop, but keep moving on the safe path out of the obstacle course.
Again if you have any questions please ask.