Pup­pies pre­par­ing for a part­ner­ship

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By ANNA LOREN

Keaton might be small, but he’s got big re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

The 7-week-old golden re­triever puppy will grow up to be a blind or vi­sion-im­paired per­son’s eyes.

He’ll help them to ne­go­ti­ate traf­fic and other haz­ards, travel on pub­lic trans­port and get to the su­per­mar­ket, of­fice or school.

Keaton is one of a lit­ter of six po­ten­tial guide dogs who have been bred at the coun­try’s only guide dog cen­tre in Ma­nurewa.

It costs around $25,000 for the cen­tre to breed and fully train each dog and the pups’ prepa­ra­tions be­gin at day one.

‘‘We teach them so­cial obe­di­ence right from the day they’re born,’’ Guide Dog Ser­vices head Paul Met­calf says.

Af­ter wean­ing, Keaton and his brothers and sis­ters will be sent to live with vol­un­teer puppy walk­ers who will teach them obe­di­ence, ba­sic com­mands and how to stay calm in crowds.

The pups will re­turn to the cen­tre when they’re a year old and will un­dergo an in­ten­sive five-month train­ing course be­fore they’re as­sessed and matched with a hu­man part­ner.

The guide dog ser­vice made 45 of those matches last year and 1200 in to­tal since it was es­tab­lished in 1973.

Most of the dogs it pro­duces are labradors and golden retriev­ers like Keaton, breeds that Mr Met­calf de­scribes as the ‘‘main­stay’’ of guide dogs around the world.

‘‘They’re good solid dogs with the right tem­per­a­ment to learn the tasks they need to do,’’ Mr Met­calf says.

Prospec­tive guide dog han­dlers are also as­sessed care­fully be­fore be­ing matched with a ca­nine part­ner.

‘‘It’s a big re­spon­si­bil­ity to have a guide dog,’’ Mr Met­calf says.

‘‘It’s very much a part­ner­ship,’’ he says.

Pho­tos: ANNA LOREN

Top dog: 7-week-old Keaton has an im­por­tant job ahead of him, Guide Dog Ser­vices head Paul Met­calf says.

Go to auck­land­c­i­ty­har­bournews. co.nz and click Lat­est Edi­tion to see a video on guide dog pup­pies.

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