By Edward Cardenas

ROMULUS (CBS Detroit) – Canines in the Leader Dogs for the Blind program received important training Wednesday at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

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Trainers introduced the dogs to the busy airport environment including riding on escalators, going through Transportation Security Administration security line along with boarding a Delta Air Lines passenger jet.

“Many of our clients fly. It’s critical that these dogs get that training,” said Keith McGregor, director of canine training for the Rochester Hills-based Leader Dogs for the Blind.

About 15 dogs, who will eventually become guide dogs, took part in the training at Metro Airport. The dogs were mostly Labradors, but Leader Dogs also utilize golden retrievers and German shepherds in the program.

The airport training is one segment of the training process for the dogs. McGregor stated that Leader Dogs breed their own dogs, and after they are born, the canines are raised in foster homes or through a program where minimum security prisoners raise the dogs.

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After about a year, they are returned to Leaders Dogs where they receive a physical exam, x-rays and formal guide training. This can take about four months, and then after the dogs are issued a client, there is an additional 26 days of training.

McGregor stated that about 200 dogs receive the training and are utilized by legally blind individuals from across the country, and around the world.

The training at Metro is the latest in an-going relationship between the airport and Leader Dogs. For more than a decade, the airport and airlines have worked together to coordinate efforts that allow Leader Dog volunteers to meet clients at their gate, along with escorting the client and their new dog to the gate when they return home.

Airport officials stated that they hope by providing accessibility to the terminals for training purposes, more people with special needs will be encouraged to travel and fly through Metro.

This includes a Service Animal Relief Area that was recently installed inside the terminal to provide an easily accessible location for those who travel with their pets. This has helped Metro to be named one of the 10 best airports for pets in the United States by Airport Technology.

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“We are happy to have the opportunity to provide a realistic venue for this important training,” said airport CEO Thomas Naughton, said in a release. “Future customers with visual challenges will have the confidence of knowing that their service animal will recognize the airport as a familiar setting.”