Professional dog trainer Hana Kim decided to document the challenging and adorable process of turning a puppy into a full-fledged guide dog. Shooting just one second of video a day, Kim created a moving timelapse of a puppy named Gumbo as he went through training.
In the end, it turned out Gumbo didn’t quite have the calm, unflappable personality it takes to be a guide dog, so Hana adopted the excitable pup herself. She instead trained him to be a therapy animal, which she believed would be a better suited to his affectionate disposition.
In Kim’s “One Second A Day—GDB Guide Dog Training,” the 10-week-old Gumbo (formerly named Lombard) goes through approximately one year of training, learning basic commands, walking with a harness, and goofing around. Over the course of the above video, Gumbo grows from a tiny pup to an almost fully grown dog.
How are guide dogs trained?
Learning to become a guide dog involves more than just mastering basic commands like “sit,” “stay” and “come.” The dogs must learn how to navigate around obstacles like parked cars and other pedestrians. They’re trained in various simulations to make sure they’re up for the job once they’re out in the real world.
Not every dog is eligible to be trained as a guide dog. Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and German shepherds are the most common guide dog breeds. The Seeing Eye, a nonprofit in New Jersey that trains guide dogs, only works with canines they breed. And even some of those specially bred pups don’t wind up making the cut. The prospective guide dogs receive medical testing and months of training before they’re officially selected.
The dogs aren’t the only ones who get trained—the people they’re assigned to also have to learn how to work with their four-legged guides.
What happens to ‘failed’ guide and service dogs?
“Failing” as a guide or service dog doesn’t condemn the animal to a life of shame. They’re usually put up for adoption. The Seeing Eye, for instance, typically gives the volunteer who raised it as a puppy first dibs. There are various programs that match prospective pet owners with pups that didn’t pass all sorts of service training programs.
And just because a dog “failed” training doesn’t mean it’s a bad egg. In fact, some service dogs get booted from their programs from being too friendly or low energy.
A version of this story originally ran in 2016; it has been updated for 2023.