Training FAQ

Q: How does a Guide Dog know where to go?
Q: How do you teach the dog to avoid overhangs such as low branches and low structures that the human partner might hit with their head?
Q: What are the main commands you use with the dogs?
Q: I heard that dogs are color blind, so how do they know when the light turns green so they can cross the street?
Q: When do the dogs go in for formal guide dog training?
Q: How long are the dogs in formal training before they are placed with the human partner they will serve.
Q: Does a guide dog ever fail to adjust to the student or vice versa?
Q: Are the students receiving the guide dog taught how to care for the dogs, including humane treatment of the dog?
Q: Is training given for students who must use public transportation regularly, like buses and subways?
Q: Why are dogs rejected as unsuitable for training?
Q: What happens to the dogs that are removed from the program?
Q: What happens to dogs if the guide dog user must give up his or her dog for some reason? Can it be used by another blind person?
Q: Are your trainers licensed?

Q: How does a Guide Dog know where to go?
A: The Blind person directs them to where he or she wants to go. It is the responsibility of the human member of the team to listen for the movement of traffic and other sounds in the environment to determine whether it is safe to proceed. If the guide dog judges that it is unsafe, it will refuse the command. This is called “intelligent disobedience”.

Q: How do you teach the dog to avoid overhangs such as low branches and low structures that the human partner might hit with their head?
A: While teaching a dog to avoid overhangs and branches can be one of the most difficult aspects of guide dog training, the same basic principles of consistency, repetition, and praise are applied. Ideally, a guide dogs should guide his master around an overhanging obstacle or take him to the obstacle and stop.

If instead the dog runs the guide dog user into the overhang, the team would need to “rework” the error. To “rework” an error they would stop, relocate the obstacle, and the guide dog user would tap it out telling the dog “NO”. They would next step back a few feet and then continue forward cautiously. At this time, the dog should either guide the guide dog user around the obstacle or stop and show it to him. If this does not occur, then the team would have to rework the error again.

While overhead clearances can be difficult, through consistency, repetition, and praise a guide dog can learn to work effectively around overhangs and branches.

Q: What are the main commands you use with the dogs?
A: The main commands that we use are Down, Sit, Stay, Come, Stand, and Heel.

Q: I heard that dogs are color blind, so how do they know when the light turns green so they can cross the street?
A: 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. First the guide dog user listens for the traffic. When the guide dog user determines it is safe to go forward, they give the command and cross the street. If the guide dog determines it is unsafe to cross the street when it is given the command, it will “intelligently disobey”. This might happen if the guide dog user misjudges the traffic or if a motorist suddenly comes around a corner speeding. In many cases, guide dogs have saved lives because they have protected their partners from dangerous situations involving unsafe motor vehicles.

Q: When do the dogs go in for formal guide dog training?
A: The dogs go into formal training at 22-26 months of age.

Q: How long are the dogs in formal training before they meet the partner they will serve?
A: After the dogs are finished being puppy raised and come
in-for-training
, formal training takes four to six months with the instructor and then an additional four weeks in class training with its blind master.

Q: Does a guide dog ever fail to adjust to the student or vice versa?
A: Incompatibility between student and dog is very rare, but it can occur. The reason why this rarely happens is because our Trainers and Student Services Personnel take the time to get to know both their dogs and the incoming students prior to matching. By the time the student and dog are matched, the needs, pace, strength, and personalities of both human and canine have been well assessed.

Q: Are the students receiving the guide dog taught how to care for the dogs, including humane treatment of the dog?
A: Yes. During the 28 days of instruction at our campus the students are taught and given lectures about how to care for their dogs, how to detect medical or other problems, and how to treat their new partners.

Q: Is training given for students who must use public transportation regularly, like buses and subways?
A: Yes. In fact, all our students are taught to use the bus, the subway, and other modes of transportation. We also teach our guide dog recipients how to use the escalator with their guide dog.

Q: Why are dogs rejected as unsuitable for training?
A: There are a number of reasons dogs are determined to be unsuitable 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.

Q: What happens to the dogs that are removed
from the program?

A: To be a successful guide dog, many factors including health and willingness to work come into play. If a dog in our program does not meet all the proper criteria necessary to be a guide dog, they must be removed from the program.

Both Retired Guide Dogs and Career Change Dogs (dogs removed from the guide dog program due to problems with their health, temperament or other factors) are eligible to be offered for
adoption
. There is a 4-6 year waiting list to adopt Career Change Dogs and Retired Guide Dogs. The priority is given to individuals who have supported G.D.A. by volunteering time or financial resources-such as donations.

If you are interested in being put on the waiting list, send the request in writing, to Guide Dogs of America, ATTENTION: “Adoptions”, along with a self addressed envelope. We ask for a donation of $400 or more when you adopt a dog. For more information, see our Adoption Page.

Q: What happens to dogs if the guide dog user must give up his or her dog for some reason? Can it be used by another blind person?
A: The decision of what will happen to the guide dog depends on certain factors such as age. If the dog is able to be re-matched, the dog is retrained and matched with a new partner. If the dog is unable to be matched with a new partner, it is put into our Adoption Program.

Q: Are your trainers licensed?
A: Yes! In the state of California, Guide Dog Instructors are required by law to be licensed by the California State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind. Instructors must complete a 3 year apprenticeship under a licensed instructor at a certified guide dog school. This program of instruction was formulated in compliance with the California State Guide Dog Act, from California administrative code, title 16, chapter 22, article 2, section 2266. Upon completing the apprenticeship, one is eligible to take a written, practical, or oral exam to obtain a license per the California State Board of Guide Dogs. California is one of the only states to have a Guide Dog Instructor license requirement.

Apply for a Guide Dog
Raise a Puppy Adopt a Dog
Donate

International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers

CFC

Use of graphics, images, information or any other content of this web site and its pages is expressly forbidden without permission from Guide Dogs of America. Guide Dogs of America does grant permission to use information from this site for educational and informational purposes only as long as information is not altered and is properly cited..