by Theresa Duncan, Guide Dogs for the Blind Alumni Associations Director
Wags and smiles were all around at the clicker training seminar at this year's ACB convention sponsored by Guide Dog Users, Inc. (GDUI). Guide Dogs for the Blind held its first ever Clicker Clinic, led by Michele Pouliot, Director of Research and Development. Using clicker training, handlers can train guide dogs to locate specific objects they may need to find, such as a bus stop kiosk, a vacant chair or bench, or poles with traffic signal buttons. Guide dogs are usually trained to maneuver around these objects, often without the handler even knowing the obstacles are there. Clicker training allows handlers to further improve orientation and mobility skills, sharpen their dog's obedience responses, and teach their guides a new targeting behavior.
Participants left with an increased awareness of the power of clicker training. We're confident that the use of clicker training will continue to expand throughout the entire guide dog industry in the months to come.
In addition, many individuals had the opportunity to try out our new Swiss harness that was designed specifically for GDB. It is very light and comfortable for my dog, Dario. One of the greatest features is the quick-release harness handle, which allows me to remove the handle for his comfort while traveling in cars, buses, trains, and planes. The connection, handle and harness are made like a fine Swiss watch, with beautiful attention to detail. The harness is the most revolutionary change to the guide dog harness since its inception in the 1940s.
We also hosted an alumni breakfast with GDB graduates attending from all over the country. It was nice to reconnect with graduates and give them the opportunity to meet each other. This was a great opportunity to network, keep alumni involved and build community. It was also a chance for GDB's staff to hear what kind of challenges our graduates are facing in their home environments and help them to remedy these situations.