Vision Australia Seeing Eye Dogs has turned to videoconferencing to allow the vital work of training and developing Seeing Eye Dogs to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like organisations across the country, Seeing Eye Dogs staff are increasingly carrying out their work from home, though unlike many that work involves training a dog from the other side of a computer screen.
“COVID-19 hasn’t stopped the clients need for a working dog, and once a puppy is born it’s important we get them on the path to becoming a quality Seeing Eye Dog as soon as possible,” Jane Bradley, Seeing Eye Dogs Manager of Puppy Development said.
Seeing Eye Dog puppies are placed with volunteer puppy carers at the age of eight weeks, until they are around 13 months old.
“Usually our carers would be working closely with their Puppy Development Trainer during this period to ensure the puppy is learning to socialise appropriately and other foundation skills” Jane said.
“COVID-19 means that’s not possible. We’ve quickly had to become experts in training our people and dogs via videoconferencing. This took a bit of getting used to, but the commitment of our staff and carers has made the transition easy.”
The move to videoconferencing has also presented opportunities to Seeing Eye Dogs, as the organisation uses it to connect with potential carers as well.
“We have regular information sessions to educate people about puppy caring that we’ve also moved to video. We had 50 people join our first one of these, which was amazing and it means we can reach more people than we would usually,” Jane said.
Seeing Eye Dogs is also due to celebrate its 60th anniversary on Friday, April 10. While celebrations maybe a bit curtailed, the organisations quick embrace of technology in recent weeks is reflective of its work over the past 60 years.
“Seeing Eye Dogs is the only national provider of dog guides in Australia and throughout our history we’ve prided ourselves on being innovative and doing whatever is necessary to meet our clients’ needs,” Jane said.
“We won’t be celebrating this anniversary like we usually would for a milestone such as this, but we’re just grateful we can continue our work.”