Pick Of The Litter directed by Dana Nachman and Don Hardy was initially released in August of 2018, but was recently picked up by Netflix and has as a result received a bit of a buzz over the last few days, so we decided to check it out!
The film follows “Litter P” puppies at the US organisation Guide Dogs for the Blind. We follow Phil, Patriot, Potomac, Primrose and Poppet from the moment they are born and through the various stages of guide dog training. We won’t spoil anything for you, but it is the perfect, feel good, documentary with plenty of extremely cute moments.
Here are just 5 of the many things we learnt about guide dogs, guide dog training, and the important role guide dogs play in the lives of their owners from Pick Of The Litter.
- Puppies start training very young – While their formal guide dog training doesn’t start until they are around 13 months old, the puppies spend most of their younger days with puppy sitters who are charged with teaching them all the necessary good manners and positive behaviours that will set them up well for guide dog training!
- Not every puppy is guaranteed to make the cut! – Being a guide dog is a specialist role that requires an extremely special kind of pup! Lots of things can make a dog unsuitable to be a guide dog, everything from difficulty concentrating to allergies. When a dog doesn’t make it through the training they may go through a “career change” and be provided to another organisation where they could also perform extremely valuable role in another support function or could end up as a breeding dog as part of Guide Dogs for the Blind’s breeding programmes.
- Dogs not only need to be taught to follow instructions, but also refuse to follow them – Obedience is an extremely important part of being a guide dog, however, the dogs also need to be able to assess situations and act in the safety of the person they are guiding. For example, telling a dog to move forwards in to oncoming traffic for example, or close to a dangerous edge, the dog must ignore the command. This is something they refer to as “intelligent disobedience”.
- Graduation day! – The dogs that make it and get paired with their owners all go through their own graduation day complete with photos, celebrating the wonderful achievement and hard work of the very many people involved.
- The wonderful impact the dogs have on their owners – For the people who get matched with a dog their world is opened up, their access is greatly improved. A cane and other aids cannot compare to the companionship and service provided by their loyal dogs.
Lastly, raising and training guide dogs is an expensive process and there are many people on waiting lists for their own guide dog to transform their lives. Why not find a reputable guide dog association in your country, such as Guide Dogs for the Blind in the US or Guide Dogs in the UK and find out ways you could support!