DOGGY ACADEMY: Gracie, Gilroy and Gizmo at the Guide Dogs NSW/ACT presentation of graduates. Picture: Simone De PeakIf you want to be a successful guide dog, there are two characteristics that will hold you ingood stead for your future career.

“They are very food-oriented, and they want to learn,” says Karen Hayter of the labradorcross golden retriever puppies she helpstrainfor a lifeof assistingothers.

“We use a lot of food rewards,”she said.

“It’s all positive reinforcement.”

The “puppy developmentmanager” for Guide Dogs NSW/ACT was looking on proudlyat celebrations held inNewcastle Museum on Wednesday for the graduation of six poochesfrom the organisation’s school.

Each of the graduandshadundergone up to two years of training, performed by volunteer puppy raisers and by professionals, like Ms Hayter, during a six-month capstoneprogramheld at adedicated training centre in Glossodia.

In that time the studentslearnt skills like stopping at curbs, indicating where stairs begin and end, andidentifying spare chairs so their fellow humans can navigate with ease.

Puppy school graduates begin their big task of helping others BIG TASK AHEAD: Future guide god Urwin, 7-weeks old, at the Guide Dogs NSW/ACT graduation celebration. Picture: Simone De Peak

TweetFacebook Guide Dogs graduate in Newcastle Pictures: Simone De Peak“The important thing is thatthe dogs themselvesneed to be well-rounded,”Fiona Ryan, team manager at theHunter North branch of Guide Dogs, said. “And really comfortablein lots of different situations.”

Guide Dogs NSW/ACTbreeds dogs especially for the traits required to graduate.

Ms Hayter said there is a 70 per cent employmentrate for thepuppies, whogo onto become guide dogs, therapy dogs or even work in courts.

She said around 55 puppiesgraduate as guide dogs in the stateeach year, receiving their ownharness.

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