Phase 1: Puppy Raising
At 7-12 weeks, a puppy is placed in a foster home to be raised for one year. We do this because we have found that home-raised dogs make better adjustments as guides than do kennel raised dogs. We ask that the Raiser teach the pup basic obedience (potty training, manners, etc.), as well as take them to an obedience course when they are between 4 and 5 months old. One of the most important responsibilities of the Raiser is to socialize the pups as much as possible; which means exposing them to traffic, other animals and people, etc.
Upon the dog’s graduation, Pilot Dogs sends a picture of the dog with its new master (the blind individual) to the Puppy Raiser, showing the completion of the project.
Phase 2: Formal Training
Once the dog is returned to Pilot Dogs by the Puppy Raiser at 12-14 months, it begins formal training with our professional Trainers/Instructors. This training typically lasts about 5 months. As the dogs advance, the training schedules are changed so that the dogs begin training in the streets of Columbus where they learn how to navigate buses, revolving doors, escalators, elevators, and all other conditions the blind may encounter once returned home with their Pilot Dogs.
Phase 3: Training the Team
When the blind student arrives to start their 4-week Training Program, they immediately begin to take care of their dog. This usually begins with the student bathing the dog. This bathing process is the preliminary lesson for the student in the dog’s care. Simple, short walks are taken at first, always in the company of our professional Trainers/Instructors. The walks and obstacles become increasingly difficult over the 4 weeks. Eventually, the dog and student find their way about our largest department stores, on and off buses, and across our busiest thoroughfares by themselves.