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History of IGDF and JGDA
30 years have passed since the foundation of IGDF(Internatoinal Guide Dog Federation). The relationships between guide dog organizations around the world are much closer now. Each organization has been making individual efforts to fill the needs of their countries and regions. 98 member organizations from 32 countries follow the Standard, according to their needs, as they operate.
The mission of IGDF:
‘The International Guide Dog Federation supports its members in their efforts to encourage and advance the provision of guide dogs as a safe means of independent mobility for people who are blind or partially sighted.’
We feel that it has begun to bear fruits through seminars and relationships, where advanced knowledge and techniques have been actively shared among the members.
Here's the story from Sam Tawada, our Chief Director of Training and Principal of School for Guide Dog Trainers:
I joined Japan Guide Dog Association (JGDA) as an apprentice in 1974. Many guide dog users kept telling me, ‘my dog only listens when trainers are around, and not when I’m alone with her.’ I was giving my all to train dogs, from dawn to dusk, that users couldn’t handle. Then I remembered about users who walked with several guide dogs throughout their life from a book I read as a child, ‘Let’s Walk, Come on Roberta’. I wanted to go and see the training in the United Kingdom where the author, Tazu Sasaki, had her training with Roberta, at Leamington Spa. At the time, Japanese trainers believed that good guide dogs came from strong discipline, and not nature. However, I had doubts about it and began to think that overseas guide dog organizations must be raising dogs that had suitable traits to become guide dogs.
In December 1982, when I left JGDA to help start up Kansai Guide Dog Association for the Blind Association (KGDA), I had a short break to visit the UK and the US. I observed a class training at the training center in Exeter. My guess was right. One GDMI had two apprentices and they instructed ten students. All of the students said, ‘they provided me with the best dog.’ Sure enough, dogs that were born to be guide dogs became guide dogs there.
Yellow, Chocolate and Black Lab puppies born at Fuji Harness, JGDA
After the class observation, the Center Controller asked me what I wanted to see next, so I requested that I wanted to see the breeding department. The Puppy Supervisor who was going to pick up puppies gave me a ride and I met Derek Freeman for the very first time, who brought the puppies from the Tollgate House. Derek asked me ‘what do you want to do?’ so I told him, ‘I want to see the dogs that are born to be guide dogs.’ He gave me permission to freely go in and out of Tollgate House, the breeding facility. Derek sent me several dogs for breeding and prospective guide dogs at KGDA when I came back to Japan.
As I trained those dogs that had great traits, my training style changed, and I had the desire to learn more about training skills that will maximize their potential. That’s when Derek and other colleagues recommended me to join the preparation meeting for the IGDF in 1986 at Leamington Spa with fellow Japanese trainers. I couldn’t fully understand the contents and conversation through the interpreter. However, I managed to get a rough idea with the documents that were handed out and with the help of my colleagues. I was already blessed with the resources from overseas through breeding, so I agreed to the foundation of the IGDF. For it was important to provide an international meeting place for many organizations that are looking to get information and create a network.
Group of people at the preparation meeting for IGDF in Leamington Spa in 1986
At the moment, I’m taking part in the IGDF as an assessor. I’m thankful that through assessments, I have been given the privilege to observe how member schools around the world have been striving to improve the quality of their service, from the time it was called Guidelines to the current Standard.