1983 - Volume #7, Issue #6, Page #18[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Ohio 4H'ers Train Seeing Eye Dogs
Pilot Dogs, Inc., Columbus, Ohio, is one of seven schools around the country that trains seeing eye dogs for the blind. According to John Gray, executive director of the school, the success rate for dogs that are raised from pups by 4-H'ers is 70% compared to a 30% success rate for dogs brought in by private parties.
"The dogs are special-bred and placed with the youngsters at a young age. Each 4-H'er has a manual to follow in training the dogs to be eyes for the blind," says Gray.
Duane Lau, Ohio 4-H extension specialist who recently retired, set up the original program for 4-H'ers.
"It's more than just another production project. The youngsters receive the dogs soon after weaning and keep them till they're about a year old. At that point, the animals go through 3 months of intensive training at Pilot Dogs, followed by one month training with the blind recipient of the dog. Once the dog has completed training, the 4-H'er often gets to meet the blind person who receives the dog. I've often seen fathers with tears in their eyes when their son or daughter finally have to give up their dog. The 4-H'er and blind person often correspond for years afterward."
The idea for the 4-H'er is to expose the dog to living in a home and to occasionally duplicate many of the situations the dogs will need to cope with later on in life, such as shopping malls, traffic, and other dogs. They also teach the dog to sit, heel, lie on the floor and so forth.
Dogs in the program vary from Dobermans, German Shepardg, and Boxers, to Labradors. Lau says bigger dogs aren't used since it's more difficult to get them onto buses and planes. Both male and females are trained and all dogs are spayed or neutered. The 4-H'er keeps close records of weight and height while the animal is growing so Pilot Dogs can match the dogs by size with recipients.
The Pilot Dogs program raises 80 to 85 dogs a year. A number of 4-H'ers from the nearby states of Indiana, Kentucky, and western Pennsylvania also participate. Pilot Dogs, Inc. pays all equipment and veterinary costs. A fully trained dog costs Pilot Dogs about $3,000 to "complete", most of which is paid for by donations on behalf of blind recipients. The non-profit organization's dogs go all over the United States. Without the 4-H program, the cost of a dog could well rise to $6,000 to $7,000, according to Lau.
The other six seeing eye dog schools in the country have also started training programs with 4-H groups. If your 4-H group would like more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Pilot Dogs, Incorporated, 625 W. Town, Columbus, Ohio 43215 (ph 614 221-6367).
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