SINGAPORE - Jordie, an 18-month-old golden labrador, is the first guide dog that is being trained in Singapore.
Flown in from Australia last December, the male guide dog will be completing its training in six months. Once fully trained, it will be paired up with a suitable client.
The Guide Dogs Association of the Blind (GDAB) announced last month that all future guide dogs used here will be trained in Singapore.
Ms Cassandra Chiu, GDAB's clients services manager, said: "It's exciting for this to be a new chapter in the history of guide dogs in Singapore."
"Singapore cannot always depend on getting our guide dogs from overseas. We must train locals to be able to train these guide dogs for the future."
Guide dog mobility instructor Zara Linehan, 33, is in charge of Jordie's training.
The Briton, who is based here, said: "Jordie is very well-behaved, though it needs some guidance from me on the more difficult tasks, such as finding a seat for the client on the bus."
Instructors like Ms Linehan undergo training for up to two to three years to learn how to train guide dogs and the clients they serve.
GDAB is planning to send a Singaporean overseas to learn how to train guide dogs and their clients in future.
Guide dogs usually undergo training overseas, which lasts for one and a half to two years.
Once the dogs are fully trained, clients must also receive three to four weeks of intensive training to learn how to be guided by the dog.
Training guide dogs can be challenging.
Ms Linehan said: "Supporting the dog and working out how it learns best can be quite tricky. Sometimes the dog's surroundings makes things difficult too."
Overgrown plants blocking the pavement or bins left in the middle of footpaths are some of the obstacles that Jordie faces.
Said her trainer: "Some members of the public or taxi drivers can be unfriendly as well, but thankfully this doesn't happen often."
Just last month, a guide dog was injured when a person threw a tool bag at it near a Kovan work site.
Ms Linehan said: "A guide dog has to stop at roads or traffic lights, taking the owner around obstacles and leading them up and down the stairs and through doors. It also has to be well-behaved at all times, especially when out with its owner."
Guide dogs are even trained not to answer nature's call when they are working or when their harness is on.
GDAB's Ms Chiu, 35, is also visually handicapped and has a guide dog named Esme.
She is an activist for the use of guide dogs in Singapore and now for locally-trained guide dogs.
Ms Chiu said: "With dogs being trained here, clients can now wait for a shorter period for the dogs to be available.
"Also, they no longer have to travel overseas for an extended period of time to be trained with their new guide dog."
This article was first published on February 07, 2015.
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