Guide dog puppy carer program seeks volunteers to help dogs train to become seeing-eye companions

Quincy will one day do great things.

The 12-week-old pup has just begun training to become a guide dog.

For the next 18 months, he'll live with the Cooper family at their home in Tasmania, learning basic commands.

The Coopers volunteered for the puppy care program through Guide Dogs Australia only a few weeks ago, so Quincy will be their first pup.

The reason for their enrolment in the program was simple according to Peter Cooper.

"For a short time in our life, we can make a difference in somebody else's life for a long time," Mr Cooper said.

"If 18 months of our time gives somebody years of good life with a Guide Dog it's a pretty good trade."


Once he's proven he can be a good boy with the Coopers, Quincy go on to much more rigorous training on his way to making a huge difference in a vision-impaired person's life.

Right now, Quincy is one of about 200 dogs in the training program. But the training is so strict that each year, Vision Australia graduates only about 50 dogs.

So Quincy will have to prove he is exceptional before he can wear the coveted harness.

The process for matching service animals to clients is time-consuming work. Lester Chraim oversees the dog training program at Vision Australia's headquarters in Melbourne.

He likens the process of pairing clients and dogs to "putting together a huge jigsaw".

"Matching the dog to their person is the hardest part," Mr Chraim said.

"We spend quite a bit of time talking and getting the best picture of what their day will look like and which dog will suit them."

But each guide dog must start their journey in the homes of regular animal-lovers like the Coopers. With so many dogs needed, the Coopers are encouraging others to get involved.

All that is needed is time and love, according to program manager Kim Ryan.

"We're asking for volunteers to get in touch, to socialise and raise pups from eight weeks of age to 18 months," she said.

"It is a huge commitment to start with, a huge amount of time when you get a little baby puppy that you are toilet training and teaching to sleep through the night ... after those first few months it's like taking another person with you, you can take them everywhere.

"We're there to support you all the way."

This story A pup's journey to wearing the Guide Dogs harness first appeared on The Canberra Times.


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