Continuing Education

Innsbruck and Wattens, Austria: multi-day Seminar October 2nd -October 5th, 2022

Wieder einmal mit Sonnenschein gesegnet, verbrachten wir Tage unterwegs in Innsbruck und Wattens in Tirol, Österreich. Once again we were blessed with sunshine for the days the seminar was held, mostly in public spaces and outdoors.

Ambras Castle, the famous Spanish room. 5 guide dogs are lying quietly while their handlers pose for a photo in front of a large, carved and very old wooden door.

The guided tour afforded us in the Castle by the head curator, Dr. Seidl, was superb.

During the days we spent together from 7am until 8pm in the evening, it was wonderful to see all the teams master real life in completely different environments.

A chamber of a million mirrors in the Swarovski Crystal Worlds in Wattens, Tirol

The Swarovski Crystal Worlds were a big challenge for the dogs and their handlers. Many rooms were dark, floors and walls often studded with crystals and reflective The acoustics, sizes, experiences and soundscapes different in every space. One room called “The Forest”, was a maze of metal trees in the dark which the dogs had to navigate through individually. Here on the group photo, we are in the snowscape of “Silent Night”, it is quite chilly but the 8 people and the 4 visible guide dogs are relaxed and laughing.

A snowscape with guide dogs and their handlers in a Swarovski Crystal Wonders space
5 Menschen, 4 Führhunde sind vor dem Goldenen Dachl von Innsbruck
Innsbrucks famous Golden Roof in the old city, with guide dog teams in front.

Public Presentation of “Independence Dogs Austria” and a multi-day seminar for assistance dog handlers and their service dogs

08.09.2021-12.09.2021

It was a great couple of days. Luckily the weather was with us all the way and our local township was supportive as well, ready to provide shelter if needed. The opening was cheerful and the service dogs highly impressed the police dog trainer that attended with their excellent discipline.

Getting ready to enter the train station in Gleisdorf with all the teams lined up indicating the sidewalk. A half hour train ride to the city at Graz main train station followed.

The group of assistance dog teams waiting patiently for the right tram to arrive at Jakominiplatz in the center of Graz, after walking down the pedestrian street “Herrengasse” with its bifurcation of trams. They are on their way to “Murpark”, a major shopping mall, where we demonstrated a whole obedience training unit on the red carpet.
Expert GDMI Maria Gerstmann directs the guide dog and his handler to move around obstacles at the camping site and to show the stairs made of pallets. He then continues up them into a Semi trailer and is instructed to explore the space ahead. This meant to go to the end of the interior of the trailer. As there is no way forward at this point, the guide dog leads his owner back to the entrance point. Praise for good work is essential.

The guide dog refuses to continue after it becomes clear to him that the way he entered into the semi truck no longer works for the team. The other option, which is no option, leads to a precipice. The handler is intensely tuned into his guide dogs actions and searches for the problem the dog is showing him by using his mobility cane. This demonstrates the importance of the mobility cane.

Campfire lullaby after a very long day in the city

Our training area was lined by tents for those adventurous enough to camp out. And of course we had had a camp fire and roasted marshmallows, an amazing schnapps tasting and even sang some songs and listened to some fiddle playing..

The last day, several teams ventured through the nearby picturesque ravine to a pop-up water hole at the end of the trek.

It is wonderful to see the mobility support and guide dog, a dog trained specifically for his handlers multiple disabilities. He supports her by bracing himself, as she loses her balance in the ravine.
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