When the puppies are 18 months old, their foster families Puppy Raisers bring them back to Guide Dogs of America to come In-For-Training.
An In-For-Training Barbecue is held for the class of puppies being called In-For-Training. The Puppy Raisers take this time to share with their fellow puppy raisers one last fun event as they say goodbye to their puppies and send them off to school. It has a joyful sadness similar to when parents send their children off to college. When their dog is given to a blind individual and graduates, it will be the ultimate reward.
Once in for training, the dogs are put through an extensive evaluation process. They are checked both medically, including a thorough orthopedic exam and an eye exam with an ophthalmologist. A stress test is given along with several other tests that will evaluate if the dog should continue on to formal training. Dogs that we decide are not able to continue on into formal training become Career Change dogs, and are moved into the Adoption Program to become a family pet.
Dogs that continue on into formal training spend the next 4 to 6 months with the trainers learning how to be a guide dog. They practice in all types of environments: including, city sidewalk areas, construction areas, beaches, rural sidewalkless areas, malls & shopping centers, subways and trains, campuses, and heavy traffic down town areas. When ready, the dog will be matched with a blind man or woman that has been accepted into class.