Formal Harness Training
The dogs now have full freedom to make decisions and some mistakes with normal guidework responses. When errors occur, instructors continue to show the dog the correct answer before confusion sets in. Instructors still pattern challenging and advanced guiding decisions and responses.
Dogs are worked past open parking lot areas and difficult travel lines to further establish responsible line stability.
Working past challenging animal and food distractions
Instructors often “spot” each other (for safety), and practice short blindfold sessions with their respective dogs. This gives them information regarding what guidework behaviors are strong and weak in an individual dog. Practice routes that follow these blindfold sessions focus on development of needed areas and reinforcement of established responses.
NEW! After preliminary testing, more extensive work inside buildings begins.
Notable Accomplishment – Traffic Conditioning (Exposure)
Dogs are introduced to traffic safety problems and shown how to respond to them via leash cues. Dogs learn to “stop”, “hold line” when stopped, and “back up on their line” when a vehicle gets too close. They are also introduced to increasing their pace for any vehicle that approaches too close to the rear of the team.
Body Handling Acceptance
Continues as in Phase 3. NEW! New handlers are added to assess the dog’s comfort and willingness with strangers.
Physical Agility Programs
Continues as in Phase 3.
Obstacle Course Progression – Intelligent Disobedience Training Begins
All dogs guide in harness through a challenging obstacle clearance course with leash cues as necessary to move as a finished guide. Course design becomes increasingly more difficult, requiring problem solving skills.
NEW! Some clearances now require a stop. Intelligent disobedience responses are introduced after successful preliminary testing. Intelligent disobedience is when a Guide Dog purposely does not respond to a handler’s guidework verbal cue because it is either unsafe or impossible to follow through with the response.
NEW! Addressing errors is now introduced for basic clearance work. Dogs are given an opportunity to re-do the area (“re-work”) after being shown the error.
NEW! An overhead clearance is any obstacle that is above the dog’s head. Dogs are initially taught to target this type of clearance. The dogs are then taught to look up for overhead clearances through a graduated approach (teaching bar starts low, and is gradually raised as dog gains proficiency).
Extra socialization assignments are done with individual dogs as needed. Some examples: harness or surface sensitive dogs; dogs that are reluctant to relieve on leash; or dogs that have questionable kennel behavior that needs “proofing” or further development in a “house” (office or dorm) setting (dogs that vocalize on tie down or crate, chewing propensities, etc.).
CWTs focus on additional relaxation sessions for all dogs as training progresses. These sessions could include one or several of the following activities: community run time, kennel enrichment programs, grooming, individual play sessions, office time at staff desks, and relaxing campus walks.
(from Guide Dogs for the Blind Phase Descriptions)