Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Shiloh Meets the ILEAD Delegation

Today, Shiloh and I had the pleasure of speaking with the delegates of the International Leadership Employment and Disability Exchange(I-LEAD) about service dogs for people with disabilities other than blindness, since most of them already knew about dog guides even if they did not have them available in their countries. While the discussion started off with the simple this is what Shiloh does for me the conversation quickly moved to how the dogs are trained, how people become service dog trainers, methods of training and working with dogs, and how dogs are chosen to become service dogs.
Shiloh and I spoke to three gentlemen, though I only caught two their home countries: Argentina and Brazil. Argentina does not yet have dog guides or service dogs. Brazil has two dog guide schools:
However, Brazil does not have service dogs for other people with other disabilities. One of the men had been a veterinarian losing his sight. They were all amazed that my dog does not wear a slip collar (aka a choke chain) and that I did not punish her in any way physically, since they were most familiar with traditional correction based dog guide training. They wanted to know how I "controlled her" to, so I took off her light nylon buckle collar and her light cotton lead and handed to them to inspect up close.
They were also very interested in where trainers for service dogs come from. I explained that many people who become service dog trainers come from either dog training, veterinary, or health care backgrounds. The people gain their experience by apprenticing to established programs and working their way up for the most part. I also mentioned the Assistance Dog Institute as an option.
I also did a little show and tell with the clicker treats and Shiloh picking up the noisiest item I had with me, my keys. The delegates are focused on improving employment and independence for people with disabilities in their countries and see service dogs as a possible tool to help meet those goals. I really enjoyed talking with the delegates and hope Shiloh and I are invited to speak to future groups.

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