Trip to the National School for Guide Dogs for the Blind

The cameras went to Scandicci, where there is one of the very few schools in Italy for training puppies that can accompany the blind.

It is located in Scandicci, near Florence, and is one of the very few in Italy that deals with the training of puppies that are able to accompany the blind throughout their lives. The cameras off has entered the rooms in The National School of Guide Dogs for the Blind, the second in the world (after the first born in the United States), founded in 1929 by the Italian Association of the Blind and since 1979 ruled by the Tuscany region, to understand how it is possible to make man’s best friend also an excellent companion journey for those who cannot fully trust all five senses. “The blind person should have a card in his head and give commands to the dog based on that,” explains Claudia Savoia, one of the instructors. “It’s not him who decides how to move – he continues – but the command is always by the man, through the voice and the guide“. And it’s the tool that looks like a rigid string used in these cases.” The method we use is gentle method adds Corrado Migliorucci, technical director of the school and lifelong coach,. When the dog does something we like, it gets rewarded. If not, we ignore it. As an intelligent animal, it actually tends to provide answers that lead to gain, socially or materially, while inhibiting reactions that lead to nothing. “And the punishments?” They do not exist for two reasons – Migliorucci explains -: an ethical because it is not right to treat a dog badly, and let’s say instrumental. Punishment, if it works, tends to interrupt one behavior but does not lead another. But we have to teach the dog to do things. ” For example, stopping in front of height differences, overcoming obstacles and knowing how to recognize them.

Dogs trained in Scandicci, then delivered to applicants from all over Italy, are mainly Labrador and Golden Retrevier, two very sociable breeds, but also able to overcome a moment that for others could be traumatic. “Usually, the dogs that work, for example for the police as anti-drugs, stay with their instructor all their lives – Migliorucci explains – instead, we train them and give them to other people, so we need dogs that are able to support this, which is not for everyone. “Furthermore, the puppies are born directly from the school’s breeding mares or come from farms, especially in the area.” We do 24 or 27 per year, with two delivery periods of 12– continues technical manager-. The training lasts six months, but you have to start with already socialized dogs ”. So already used to moving in certain contexts and being in touch with everything in the foreign world. When the puppy is two months old, it goes for at least a year or so in a foster family that receives food and medical care, and returns to school one week a month to see how this first phase progresses. “We also give nursing staff one technical booklet with all the experiences he has to makeIn fact, Migliorucci emphasizes, adding: “All dogs have the intelligence to guide them, what hinders their learning is the fear of something. To ensure that this fear does not exist, it is necessary to socialize it immediately, because there is a “Age of the dog, which goes from two to months, where all the experiences they live are positive and not scary. In that window, it is important to get him out and train him before he gets too big.”

After the first phase of socialization, the dogs then begin the process itself, and eventually, over a period of two weeks, delivery is made to the new owners (although they remain the property of the school, to avoid terrible abandonment or inappropriate use.), Which they will keep them for lifetime. During the same two weeks, future drivers will also be taught how to behave with guide dogs and how to give them directions to move safely, while trying to create a necessary feeling between the two in order to move forward together. . “It’s not easy, it takes time – says Claudia Savoia-. The harmony is created in six or eight months”. Another detail, no less important: the dog behaves only in a certain way when carrying the guide. “When he does not have it, he is like everyone else – the instructor still remembers -: it is essential that he distinguishes between the two momentsotherwise he would be exposed to constant stress throughout the day. And that would certainly not lead to an optimal quality of life. ” In short, the health of the animal is not a detail.

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Furthermore, the process of acquiring a guide dog available, however, first of all to anticipate a day of real commission, with meetings with doctors and instructors, to understand whether the blind man who requests it knows how to move safely with a cane. “If so, he will also be able to use it as a guide dog” confirms Migliorucci and finally reminds that in addition to the specific training mentioned so far, near Florence have also followed for some time pet therapy projects and courses for dogs with owners with motor disabilities, among other. “Our greatest satisfaction – he concludes – is to be able to see a blind person who is able to move independently and safely with his dog”.

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