Being in an airport can be a bit stressful or even nerve wracking for many people, but for someone who is visually impaired, it is of great help when they have a trained professional guide dog to help them through the process of travelling on a plane.
It takes a lot of practice and training to be a guide dog, puppies train from a very young age in order to one day be a well-trained professional ready to guide their human companions.
On Saturday, a Southern California dog school took a group of 40 puppies on a training day of airport simulation.
The puppies, ranging from 4 to 12 months old, got to experience all aspects of navigating through an airport and practice their duties as a guide dog helping their humans get through their flight.
Hosted by the Guide Dogs of America's Canine Development Department, GDA transformed their 5,000 square-foot Visitor Education Center into a simulated airport terminal for these puppies to practice.
"Training days like this are really important because at Guide Dogs of America we have so many clients that travel all over the US and Canada," said Carol Ann Heinis, the Canine Development Lead at Guide Dogs of America. "So they come here to class and then most of them fly home."
The group of puppies spent their day practicing how to walk calmly alongside luggage, navigate through a mock TSA checkpoint, settling patiently, ignoring distractions, navigating narrow aisles, tucking themselves under small seats, and ignoring passersby.
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Even if it's not a real airport, the puppies still get the experience of what they would be doing at an actual airport and on a real airplane, Heinis explained.
"So if we've prepared the puppies that are in our training, to be on an airport, or in an airport, and on an airplane, then we've really set them up to succeed when they're flying home," Heinis said.
As GDA has clients in the US and Canada, this kind of training is vital for these future guide dogs to be able to assist their humans when they travel home via plane.