View Full Version : Ask a Guide Dog for the Blind Trainer!

December 18th, 2010, 10:24 PM
I've recently become friends with a trainer at Guide Dogs for the Blind (http://www.guidedogs.com/site/PageServer) (wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guide_Dogs_for_the_Blind)), and she has been very tolerant of me picking her brain.

Fun stuff I've learned:

-They have their own breeding program. All Labs, but they get blood from other breeds in the mix for genetic diversity.
-Attrition rate is about 50% from birth.
-Dogs that are dropped are called "career shifted".
-The training seems to be all clicker based (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clicker_training).
-One of the skills I saw her train the dogs in is what she called "intelligent disobedience". If told to go forward and there is a low hanging branch (for example) that the dog feels is a risk to the handler, the dog is to ignore the command until it sees the handler reach out and touch the obstacle.
-For the doggie's mid-term equivalent, the trainer puts a blindfold on and walks around to "put your money where your mouth is", so to speak. A spotter stands behind for safety.

And, because most of us here are nerds:
-They are a Windows outfit and use JAWS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JAWS_%28screen_reader%29) on all the computers. When attempting to demonstrate this to me, she logged onto a computer to find that someone had disabled the auto-starting of JAWS and this pissed her off very much.
-JAWS seemed to have a much better voice synthesizer than Ubuntu's Orca (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orca_%28assistive_technology%29). If you want to have some fun, turn your speakers on, type 'orca' into a terminal, turn your monitor off, and hit enter.

Anywho, I found learning all of this to be fascinating. Anyone else have any questions to toss her way?

(Disclaimer: whatever I post is my understanding of what I heard her say, and not the official position of her, the organization, or anyone else, yada yada yada)