Local Lady Rachael Hackney
by Lily Whiting
Rachael is a Guide Dog Trainer at Guide Dogs Tasmania in Hobart.
Where in Hobart do you live? Glebe, Hobart.
Why Hobart? I love the way the city has so much to offer like a big city, but with fewer crowds and a small-town feel. It’s also just incredibly beautiful.
Tell us a little about your work? Most of my work is outside training dogs. You may see me walking the streets of Hobart with a different dog in harness preparing them to go to clients living with low vision. Our puppies are socialised until about 18 months by volunteer puppy raisers, then the dogs come into formal training with me and learn more challenging skills to prepare them for their careers as Guide Dogs. It’s also part of my job to interpret the dog’s behaviour throughout training to make sure they are suited for the work. We have many other careers that the dogs might be more comfortable in such as the Autism Assistance Dogs program for children, Dog Assisted Therapy program and Facility Dogs.
What is it about Labradors that makes great assistance dogs? Labradors are very food motivated, so that helps with training when using food rewards of course. They also have great temperaments for assistance work. One of the main reasons they were chosen as guide dogs in Australia was the acceptability in the community. People are used to Labradors being friendly and were more willing to adhere to the public access rights when they were first coming into law.
Even though the dogs are amazing, they aren’t robots. It is essential for the safety of the clients that they are not distracted while working. Please act as though the dogs are not there, don’t talk to them, whistle at them and of course don’t touch them. Please keep your dogs on a lead and away from working dogs as much as possible. Our dogs work very hard, but they also get to play and just be dogs and free run with other dogs when off duty.
Which puppies are you currently working with? I have four training dogs on the guide dog program, and work with our Dog Assisted Therapy dog Grady to teach him new skills to use with the kids at Kites.
What do you love doing outside work? Spending time with my own dogs at the beach or park, hiking, or relaxing with a glass of wine. Most of all, I love to travel and learn about new places and cultures. I miss my friends and family interstate and overseas; I can’t wait to be able to spend time with them and explore the world again!
Who do you admire? All of our amazing volunteers; it’s sometimes unbelievable how much time and effort they devote to us and our dogs!
Favourite podcast or tv show? Taskmaster always makes me laugh the most. Although, I do really enjoy watching The Masked Singer; it’s just so random and fun to watch with friends.
Secret vice? Only one? Probably cheese, I could live on cheese…and maybe wine.
What are you reading now? Kitty Flanagan’s 488 Rules for Life
What gets your goat? When people distract the dogs by talking to them while in harness. It’s very frustrating to tell people over and over that the dogs need to concentrate. I know they are cute and it’s hard to ignore them, but it is dangerous for them to be distracted while working.
What was your first job? I worked in a Supermarket bagging groceries and collecting shopping carts when I was 15
What are your daily news/social media habits?
Winn News is my go-to each evening for news. Social media tends to be the death scroll on Instagram.
Your favourite place for…
Breakfast: If I get a chance to go out for breakfast, Berta on Liverpool street is my first choice.
Lunch: Room for a Pony for a pizza.
Dinner: I’m still looking for a favourite, so many places to explore still.
Favourite Hobart secret? Ohhh I don’t have one, can someone let me in on these secrets please??
Parting words? It costs over $50,000 to raise and train a guide or assistance dog. The support of volunteers, donors and Hobart businesses are essential for us to continue doing the work we do to improve the lives of Tasmanians living with disability. If you can help us by donating, volunteering or partnering we would love to hear from you. Otherwise, see you on the streets of Hobart!