Muncie the puppy trains to become a guide dog for the blind
DAKOTA DUNES, SD (KTIV) -
Muncie is your typical puppy. He loves getting treats, he loves going on walks and he loves the ladies; but, Muncie's purpose in life goes beyond man's best friend. He's in training to become a guide dog for the blind.
When he was 7-weeks-old, Muncie moved in with Connie Carlson in Dakota Dunes, South Dakota. She's a volunteer puppy raiser for Leader Dogs for the Blind.
"He basically goes where ever we go," said Connie Carlson. "He will fly on the plane with us. He will go on vacation with us. He's just our little sidekick."
Sounds like a lot of fun for a 4-month-old puppy, but for Muncie, it's all work and no play when he's in uniform. He's too busy learning the fundamentals of being a guide dog. One, of which, is avoiding distractions. Carlson takes Muncie out in public to learn just that. She and her friend, Sandy, take turns dropping things in front of Muncie, with the goal of teaching him to ignore pop-up distractions.
"We don't want them to be picking everything up off the floor," said Carlson. "Especially if we're going out into restaurants, we're going out into stores, we're going out to the grocery store. If there's something on the floor, we want them to walk right by that."
Does a clicking sound mean anything to you? Well, to Muncie it means that he did something good and now it's time for a treat. It's all about positive reinforcement.
"The clicker just becomes a real positive way of training the dog," said Carlson.
It takes a special kind of dog to guide the blind, but it requires a truly passionate trainer to get them there.
"It's almost like sending a child off to college because you work so hard with the puppy and you really want that puppy to succeed," said Carlson. "And you want that puppy to become somebody else's independence, somebody else's mobility, and somebody else, you know, to love."
Muncie's day is not over yet! Before heading home, Tuesday, Carlson and Muncie stopped by Sioux City's Washington Elementary School to visit a class of fifth graders. Carlson said it's a great opportunity for the kids to learn about guide dogs, while at the same time, teach Muncie how to act around kids.
In October, Muncie will have completed his at-home training with Carlson. Then, he will head off to a school in Michigan where he'll learn more advanced skills to guiding the blind. Once Muncie graduates from training school, he'll be worth about $40,000.