CARLETON PLACE, ON – As part of CNIB Guide Dogs' class of 2021, 20 Canadians who are blind or partially sighted are graduating with their guide dogs today – International Guide Dog Day – after completing intensive training.
Whether it’s avoiding obstacles, stopping at curbs and steps or negotiating traffic, these guide dogs foster independence for people living with sight loss. In this partnership, the handler provides directional commands, and the dog ensures the team’s safety.
"Today's graduating dogs are changing the lives of Canadians with sight loss from Whitehorse to Regina to Halifax and many communities in between,” says Diane Bergeron, president of CNIB Guide Dogs, a guide dog handler for 37 years. "The role our guide dogs play is truly life-changing, leading their handlers to increased independence, confidence and sense of connection with the world."
CNIB Guide Dogs trains Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and crosses of the two breeds primarily because of their temperament, personality and drive to please. These two breeds also have a double-layer coat, which means they can be placed anywhere in Canada and will shed according to climate.
Guide dogs are among the most highly trained dogs in the world, performing tasks that require intensive standardized training, and are specifically trained to assist someone who is blind or partially sighted with mobility. In fact, guide dogs are the only service dogs trained in intelligent disobedience, which is disobeying their handler's command if it will put the handler's safety at risk. The safety of their handler is the guide dog's number-one priority.
"Although CNIB’s pups in training are raised to become guide dogs, not all dogs are destined to become guide dogs," says Bergeron. "There are many reasons why a dog may not be suitable to become a CNIB Guide Dog, including medical issues, anxiety or discomfort with the harness, but that doesn't mean they can't make a difference in the lives of Canadians living with sight loss."
To help transform our communities into beacons of accessibility and inclusion, our dogs have two other career options:
- A CNIB Buddy Dog is partnered with a child or youth who is blind or partially sighted. Whether it’s feeding, grooming or walking this well-trained family pet, a buddy dog provides a child with an opportunity to care for a dog and in some cases, help make it easier for them to transition into a guide dog partnership in the future.
- A CNIB Ambassador Dog is partnered with a staff member or volunteer to promote CNIB Guide Dogs at community events and raise awareness about the role of guide dogs.
At today's graduation ceremony, seven buddy dog partnerships and two ambassador dog partnerships also graduated, alongside the guide dog partnerships. Since launching in 2017, CNIB Guide Dogs has raised, trained and matched 57 dogs in communities across Canada, including 37 guide dogs, 14 buddy dogs, and six ambassador dogs.
The graduation ceremony can be viewed at cnib.ca/grad after 3 p.m. Eastern time on April 28.
About CNIB Guide Dogs
At CNIB Guide Dogs, we raise, train and match dogs with Canadians who are blind or partially sighted. We also raise our voices to ensure people with sight loss have opportunities to live, work and play without barriers. We’re committed to ensuring social attitudes shift to universal acceptance and appreciation for guide dogs. We also provide advocacy support for guide dog handlers across Canada, regardless of where their dogs are trained. For more information about CNIB Guide Dogs, visit cnibguidedogs.ca
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