To localize and sustain Seeing Eye Dog Services in Hong Kong for visually impaired people, HKSEDS main focus on training local trainers to make this professions rooted in Hong Kong.
The major responsibility of a “Seeing Eye Dog Trainer” is to train dogs to become professional Seeing Eye Dogs which can provide mobility for the blind or those partially sighted. A Seeing Eye Dog has to undergo a series of trainings by the trainer including puppy walker training where puppies are assigned to a foster family to learn house manners, basic obedience and socializing them to the community. After that, the trainer has to assess the dog based on its behavior and personality. With these findings, the trainer will provide appropriate education and counseling programs to the dog and re-assess the dog on a regular basis to ensure it is suitable to become a Seeing Eye Dog.
Except for training in Hong Kong, most of the professional and intensive training will be conducted in overseas training schools. The admission requirements are as follows:
- Male or female aged 18 or above;
- College degree or above;
- Good physique;
- Able to read and write Chinese and English, and speak fluent Cantonese, Mandarin and English.
Good communication skill is especially important, this ensure that once arrived training school can immediately admit into related training program. For those who are interested to join Seeing Eye Dogs professions, we suggest to start with becoming a volunteer in HKSEDS
A “Seeing Eye Dog Instructor” is more advanced and professional than a “Seeing Eye Dog trainer.” People have to be qualified as a trainer before they can receive training to become Seeing Eye Dog instructor. An instructor has to assess the conditions of the Seeing Eye Dog’s applicant before he decides whether the applicant is eligible of using a Seeing Eye Dog. Next, the instructor has to match a Seeing Eye Dog to a user based on the personality and conditions of the dog and the living condition and the situation of the user. In that sense, an instructor has to be a good observer with the relevant professional knowledge. After the graduation from the matching period, the instructor will follow up each case: to make sure the Seeing Eye Dog can adapt to the new living environment; there is no problem of misusing the dog by the users; and fix behavioral problems of the dog if any.
An applicant’s personal data like walking speed, weight, personality, living environment, working environment, family background, family members, etc. are the key considerations in the matching process. Apart from this, an instructor has to coach the users how to use and take care of the dog. They include cleaning the dog, giving commands, correcting the dog’s behavioral problems and bad habits and executing the daily guiding duties.
Every 6 months after the successful matching of the dog and the user, the instructor has to conduct visits to understand the working situation of the dog and whether the user has treated the dog properly. If the working and living environment, or health situation of the user changes, the instructor has to adjust the way how the dog should adjust to the new situation.
Moreover, the instructor has to monitor the health of the dog regularly. If the dog shows symptoms of aging, the instructor has to decide whether the dog should retire or to reschedule its work and rest time. Therefore, apart from receiving a trainer’s training, an instructor has to possess the knowledge of orientation and the ability to assess the situation of the visually impaired so as to decide whether an applicant is suitable for using a Seeing Eye Dog.
A trainee receives training in a seeing eye dog training school in Hong Kong and HKSEDS will recommend or send suitable trainees to overseas Seeing Eye Dog training schools for training. Most of the training schools worldwide do not accept direct applications. A small number of schools will co-operate with other schools to train their respective candidates. For example, HKSEDS and Taiwan Guide Dog Association & Samsung Guide Dog School are partners. We will arrange trainee to take examination in those schools. The advantage of this arrangement is the total cost is lower. Trainees can also stay in Hong Kong for their training.
International Guide Dog Federation has specific requirements for the professions of guide dog mobility instructors and guide dog trainers. For example, a trainer is required to successfully train at least 6 Seeing Eye Dogs successfully. For an instructor, he/she has to successfully match 6 pairs of dogs and users before they can attain the required qualification. Of course, not all training organizations have the same requirements. In general, it takes 2 to 3 years to train up a Seeing Eye Dog mobility trainer and 3 to 4 years to train up a Seeing Eye Dog instructor.
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