The day of graduation for a guide dog team marks the beginning of years of a new bond that gives more freedom in mobility to the handler, stimulating work for the dog, plus joy and companionship for both. This day also marks the completion of two weeks of rigorous training for the guide dog team, nearly a year of devoted love, attention, and discipline of a puppy raiser, around 6 months of diligent guiding training from instructors, plus thousands more dollars and hours of support from donors, volunteers, and members of the Guide Dogs for the Blind community. Truly a guide dog team’s day of graduation is a day to be celebrated! Here are some ideas of gifts to contribute to the celebration…
Every one deserves some play time after a hard day of work, guide dogs included. Because we want to keep our hard little workers safe and healthy, only high quality, durable toys are recommended for guide dogs. These are toys that will not pose a choking hazard or digestive issues. Also toys that could encourage work distractibility are not recommended, such as balls or Frisbees that can lead to obsessive behavior. And any toy should be checked regularly for splinters and rough edges and discarded if damaged or too worn down.
The following types of toys are not recommended by Guide Dogs for the Blind:
- Latex squeaky toys
- Cow or horse hooves
- Pig ears
- Rawhide bones
- Real bones
- Frisbees™ or flying discs
- Fabric or stuffed toys – anything a dog could dismember, shred or swallow
- Tennis balls, golf balls, any medium or small size ball
At the end of the day, my guide dog loves to chew away at her Nylabone Dental Dino Power Chew Toy. Nylabone dog toys are made from a material safe for digestion and take several weeks to chew through . They come in many shapes, sizes, and flavors. My guide dog loves the bumpy texture and shape that makes it easy to hold of the Nylabone Dental Dino Power Chew Toy. Or look through the list of nylabone dog chew toys for just the right one.
Fun, versatile, and stimulating, Kongs are a must have dog toy! It can be filled with kibble to make dinner time even more exciting and slow down the meal. To make the filling of the kong last longer, I will moisten the kibble then freeze it. My guide dog now eagerly runs to her kennel when I pull out the kong and doesn’t seem bothered at all when I have to leave her for a time.
Unfortunately treats are not recommended because guide dogs are highly motivated by food and we also want to keep our partners fit and healthy. This isn’t to say guide dogs don’t get rewards; In their training, food is a reward for good behavior. The handler keeps a pouch of kibble and frequently rewards the dog for helping find doors, steps, passing other dogs without getting distracted, resisting the crumbs left on the floor of a restaurant, and so on. So if treats, with a tastier flavor than their kibble, are given to them, it can lead to devaluing the reward of their kibble. Plus treats often have higher calories and ingredients that may upset the digestion of the dog, which is not fun to deal with when being in public so frequently, if you get my drift.
I do have some treats on hand for times when high value rewards are called for, such as nail trimming or bath time and when fireworks and loud scary noises go off. Also, if I must leave her alone for a few hours I will give her a cong with some kibble mixed with a little bit of peanut butter. Apples and carrots are also healthy treat options. However, now anytime anyone has peanut butter, apples, or carrots she sniffs and stares at eh person and may even groom reminiscing over the taste.
Natural Balance Large Breed Bites Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Dog Food, Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Formula
This is the dog food recommended by Guide Dogs for the Blind. I like the kibble size for large breed because it is easier to handle when rewarding my guide. A bag of this dog food would also be a much appreciated gift because the school gives you a small bag of dog food to go home with that last less than a week.
Since this is a similar formula to the dog food, they could be a good option to have on hand for those high reward times.
When the high rewards aren’t enough and my guide dog is still trembling from a scare of fireworks, I give her a few pieces of pet ease. These seem to take the edge off for her.
There are many other items that are handy or necessary to have for a guide dog. Check back for my next article on “Guide Dog Essentials” for more practical ideas.
There are many cool gift ideas at the Guide Dogs for the Blind gift store.
Jonesaz makes beautiful leather leashes with service dogs in mind. She is also a service animal trainer for Guide Dogs for the Blind. This would make a wonderful gift and it is always handy to have an extra leash on hand!
How about a dog bowl inspired by a guide dog? Each bowl was hand made by wheel throwing by me, a guide dog team graduate in 2012. I’m working on a line of dog bowls featuring Libby’s paw print in the bottom. So please follow me and check back for new products.