Guide Dogs Victoria seeking Melbourne and Geelong volunteers

Chinmay Naik

Posters at a Melbourne train station seeking more guide dog volunteers and trainers. Photo: s2art
Posters at a Melbourne train station seeking more guide dog volunteers and trainers. Photo: s2art

More guide dogs and guide dog trainers will be needed as vision problems continue to affect people, according to the manager of Guide Dogs Victoria.

The organisation, which specialises in training guide dogs, is calling for more dog lovers from Melbourne to raise guide dogs for the first year.

‘Guide Dogs Victoria as an organisation has about 800 dogs partnered with their people, working as guides,” says Jane Bradley, the manager of Guide Dogs Victoria.

‘By 2020, we envisage that we will need lot more guide dogs considering people are acquiring different vision problems,” she said.

Back when dogs first became trained to help the visually impaired, authorities did not have access to the right breeding material, so the dogs were sourced by individual owners or breeders, or they were rescued, Jane explains.

She says the process often involves behaviour based psychology, training principles, and learning theory.

There are lot of stories Jane can recall.

One young woman suffered from Multiple Sclerosis and had fragile body balance.

The dog who partnered the girl was extremely intelligent, Jane described, and would often do things for her which were not a part of his training.

Every time there were obstacles in the road, the dog would stop the girl and make sure that she was okay. Another dog which Jane trained was partnering a visually impaired woman.

When the radiator in the house caught fire, the dog woke her up and pushed her towards the radiator to alert her eventually leading them to escape.

Jane says there are plenty of amazing stories like these.

She says puppy raisers often find it difficult to let the dog go after one year.

They care for the animals, and letting go makes them upset.

But they are aware that the dogs need to partner the people who need them, she adds.

In Jane’s words, ‘it will be like a teacher wanting to take all the children to her home. That’s not what they are meant for.’

With the puppy raisers, she believes that it’s not about giving it back but about paying it forward for a better cause.

The organisation is always in need of volunteers as well as puppy raisers.

Food, training and health care are provided in the training of the puppies.

Jane, who is originally from Britain, believes that countries like Australia and Britain have high levels of animal welfare.

She says Australians are lucky to have such a compassionate and friendly environment towards animals.

With an International Guide Dogs Federation which has certain criteria to be a member school, Guide Dogs Victoria plays a role in assessing emerging schools which have not been recognised before.

The organisation has worked with similar bodies in Singapore and Hong Kong to set up education programmes, guide dogs schools, and awareness programmes.

Guide Dogs Victoria needs at least 20 more puppy carers at the moment. For more information, go to guidedogsvictoria.com.au