Training

Guide Dog Defined

A guide dog is a specially trained dog who acts as a mobility tool to aid blind and visually impaired individuals. With the increased mobility and independence gained through the use of a guide dog, the confidence of the human partner of the guide team soars. Guide dogs must be intelligent, alert, and willing to serve.

BlindfoldWorkWithGuideDogInTrainingTabor2014About Our Instructors

Guide Dogs of America’s instructors are dedicated individuals who have a strong commitment to serving the blind community.

In California, Guide Dog Instructors are required by law to be licensed. California is the only state with such a requirement. Instructors must complete a three-year apprenticeship under a licensed instructor at a certified guide dog school before undertaking the exams to obtain a license per the California State Board of Guide Dogs.

From personality to pace, new students to retrains, young adults to seniors, there’s a lot that goes into preparing for each class of 10 students and 10 dogs.

Learn about the process in the article “How GDA’s Instructors Prepare For Class.”

Training Q&A

How does a Guide Dog know where to go?

The blind person directs their guide dog to where they want to go.

I heard that dogs are color blind, so how do they know when the light turns green so they can cross the street?

Guide Dogs do not read the lights nor make the decision to cross the street. It is the guide dog user that gives the command to go forward.

When do the dogs go in for formal guide dog training?

The dogs go into formal training at approximately 18 months of age.

How long are the dogs in formal training before they meet the partner they will serve?
Formal training takes four to six months with the instructor. Then, each guide dog and their blind partner will spend three weeks in class learning to work together as a team.

Is training given for students who must use public transportation regularly, like buses and subways?

At their request, students are taught to use the bus, the subway, and other modes of transportation with their guide dogs. We also teach our guide dog recipients how to use the escalator with their guide dog.

Does every dog complete the program?

No. There are a number of reasons dogs are not suited for guide work and the reasons vary from dog to dog. Some reasons are nervousness, high degree of distraction by other animals (such as squirrels, cats, or other dogs), fear of traffic, and a lack of willingness to work.

What are “Career Change” dogs? 

To be a successful guide dog, many factors including health and willingness to work come into play. If a dog in our program is not suited for guide dog work, they will make a “career change” either to another type of program, such as search and rescue, or they will enter our adoption program. Visit our Adoption Page to learn more.

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