Leader puppies learn to be comfortable around emergency personnel

Posted at 11:40 PM, Sep 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-23 23:40:41-04

CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich-- They're trained to help people with visual impairments, and on Sunday, a few leader dogs got a look at how to handle an emergency situation.

Three leader puppies under the age of one were exposed to distractions like emergency vehicles, sirens and first responder gear during an exercise at the Cascade Township Fire Department.

Organizers say with the puppies having to help take care of their owners' daily needs, it's important they're also comfortable around police and first responders, in case their humans ever need emergency help.

"It's important they're comfortable with us, new strange people coming in in different uniforms, gear and all that good stuff," said Lt. Andrew Albright with the Cascade Township Fire Department. "We do encounter animals [and] pets, but probably more important for these ones being leader dogs for the blind,  their handlers obviously might end up in traffic or a situation where they may become injured, even [at] the home they may become injured and need our assistance."

The puppies are from Leader Dogs for the Blind. The organization says that getting the puppies this training at a young age can help with memory retention.

"Dogs have an incredible memory, and in this exposure point as puppies they are the most open sponge to absorb that learning experience, and then it's in their database; it's in their own personal reference files for future application," said puppy counselor Shelley Strobel-Erhardt.

This was the first time the exercise has been done, and organizers are hoping to make it an official partnership and do more training in the future.

Leader Dogs for the Blind is also hoping to get more volunteers to foster puppies. Those interested can apply here.