Guide Dogs for the Blind, serving individuals across the US and Canada, has just announced that preparation is underway to launch a puppy raising trial program using clicker training techniques. The first Puppy Program Clicker Trial will commence in early 2008 using approximately 25 new puppies entering the program.
Over the past four years, the Training Department at Guide for the Blind (GDB) has skillfully utilized clicker techniques and fully appreciates the exceptional outcomes of using this powerful training tool. In the past year, GDB has successfully expanded the use of clicker training with students and alumni, and continues to assess other program areas that may benefit from clicker techniques.
In evaluating ways the Puppy Raising program could benefit, GDB focused on the temperament and behavior issues that continue to result in numbers of dogs being career changed (primarily animal distraction, especially toward other dogs). So, although a few other areas were identified as potentials for inclusion in the trial, developing less distracted puppies is high on GDB's list.
GBD notes that their biggest challenge will be educating and overseeing the training of the clicker techniques to raisers, who consist of a large number of diverse volunteers spread over a huge geographical area. Developing a successful educational program for raisers will be an important part of this trial.
The Puppy Program Clicker Trial will be supervised by Michele Pouliot, Director of Research and Development, based out of GDB's Oregon campus. Michele is also a member of the ClickerExpo faculty, and the winner of the 2007 International Freestyle Competition (accomplished via 100% clicker training), as we highlighted on this blog.
In early 2008, the new puppies in the clicker trial program will be delivered from the Oregon campus to pre-identified Pacific Northwest raisers who have expressed interest in participating in the trial. During the course of each pup's upbringing, trial participants will be required to travel to the Oregon campus once a month for the first three months, and every other month thereafter for workshops and assessment sessions with staff supervising the trial.
We look forward to hearing how the trial progresses, and will keep you posted.