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Sunday, October 24, 2021

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Guide dogs sit, stay while COVID-19 restrictions in place

TORONTO – The pandemic has changed the way we shop, work and act over the last year, and it’s not only humans who have had to make changes, guide dogs are also being impacted by COVID – 19.

Training guide dogs is long and complicated, it not only involves teaching the dogs commands, but how to avoid and handle distractions. Before the pandemic, taking a guide dog outside and to such places as train stations, libraries, stores and other public spaces would be a form of distraction training, but now it’s another story.

“That’s part of the challenge, is finding spaces for the dogs to get trained, ”Beverly Crandell, CEO of Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides. told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday.

Even guide dogs are turning to e-learning. To help guide dogs learn to deal with distractions, they’re using apps like Skype and Zoom.

“We’re finding creative ways to get the dogs trained,” said Crandell.

What would normally be group sessions have become one-on-one, she added.

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It’s not only the dogs that are getting different training, but their soon -to-be handlers have also made some changes.

“Some of our clients have to defer their training,” Crandell told CTV’s Your Morning.

Normally, a residency program sees clients spending from one to three weeks living at a facility where they get to know their guide dog. Due to coronavirus restrictions, they’re not able to do that now.

“Handlers being able to work with the dogs is critical to their success,” she said.

But, they’re not letting the pandemic slow them down too much.

“We’re ready to go, as soon as restrictions lift we are ready to go full speed ahead.”

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