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Guide dog in training

13 Jul 2017

Guide dog in training Image

Southbank resident Sharon Palmieri has recently become the foster carer of 11-week-old Labrador, Albert, who is training to be a guide dog.

She took Albert home from Guide Dogs Victoria (GDV) when he was seven weeks old and had fallen in love with the puppy.

“Albert makes everyone so happy. He has the ability to put a smile on everyone’s face,” she said.

Ms Palmieri has always loved animals but does not think she will be able to commit to owning a pet for some 18 years.

She and her partner made the decision to foster a guide puppy because they wanted to “get their animal fix” while also helping people with a visual impairment.

Ms Palmieri raised another guide dog 10 years ago and said it was a very rewarding experience.

“To think that Albert may be able to help other people is amazing. We want to give back to the community,” she said.

Albert is winning hearts with his puppy eyes and sweet disposition, but raising him also requires a lot of work.

“It’s like having a baby. It’s constant work,” Ms Palmieri said. “We have to constantly be aware of where he is and what he is doing. Puppy raisers need dedication to raise and train a puppy.”

Albert cannot be left alone for more than three hours at a time, although guide dogs in training can go almost anywhere with their foster carer.

Ms Palmieri also needs to conduct basic behavioural training for Albert.

When Albert turns 12 months old, he will go through a final assessment to help determine whether he is fit to become a guide dog.

Little Albert seems to have great potential to eventually become a successful working dog.

“Albert is a very smart dog. He already knows how to sit and wait. He is learning to ‘give’ when we want him to drop a toy,” Ms Palmieri said.

Ms Palmieri is responsible for helping Albert socialise with people and familiarise with different environments, such as home, cafes, supermarkets and public transport.

She said she received training from GDV to ensure she is using appropriate methods to train Albert.

“I’m being taught by Guide Dogs Victoria about how to teach Albert,” she said. “I often attend information sessions and get visits from GDV staff to make sure we are doing the right things.”

“Raising a guide dog requires a sense of responsibility and patience. I hope more people can foster puppies and help others,” Ms Palmieri said.

Ms Palmieri is a wedding celebrant and some of her clients even want to invite Albert to attend their weddings.

Southbank residents will soon be able to see Albert in public areas, wearing a guide-dog-in-training jacket, after he turns 16 weeks.

For more information on becoming a puppy raiser, visit guidedogsvictoria.com.au

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