Tuesday was a day of professional development at Vancouver International Airport for a group of furry workers.
The participants practiced entering the airport, negotiating security and boarding an aircraft. For the most part, they stayed on task – although there was the odd hand-licking, tail-wagging, and uncalled-for sniffing.
The workers were 20 puppies in training to become service dogs who could help their humans travel more easily.
“We want to make travel accessible for everyone, part of that is making sure that services animals can get through the security, checking and getting on the aircraft in a comfortable manner,” said Robyn McVicker, the vice president of operations at YVR.
The airport familiarization tour is part of a new program run by the airport in collaboration with Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS) and B.C. & Alberta Guide Dogs.
PADS and B.C. & Alberta Guide Dogs breeds, raises and trains certified assistance dogs, partnering them with people living with disabilities.
As PADS and B.C. & Alberta Guide Dogs have clients across Canada who want to travel, this kind of training is vital for future guide dogs to be able to assist their humans when they travel home via airplane.
Matthias Lenz, a puppy training supervisor from B.C. & Alberta Guide Dogs, said it’s a great opportunity for these puppies to experience the sights and smells of the airport.
Lenz explained that their puppy raisers usually take the dogs on the SkyTrain or buses for training, but it’s tough for them to practice working at an airport, not to mention getting on a plane.
The group of puppies, who were three months to two years old, spent their afternoon practicing walking calmly alongside handlers at the checkpoint, navigating narrow aisles, ignoring distractions or passerby and tucking themselves under small seats.
Although this is the first year for YVR to host the familiarization tour, PADS and B.C. & Alberta Guide Dogs hope it will become an annual part of the dogs’ training.