Guide Dogs | Training & Puppy Raising | Guide Dogs NSW/ACT

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Guide Dogs

A Guide Dog is a working dog that has been highly trained to guide someone who is blind or vision impaired safely from one destination to another.

Blonde Guide Dog labrador in harness, sitting with blonde labrador puppy

They play a critical role in enabling people with impaired vision to get around safely and independently, so they can live the life they choose.

Handlers build a lifelong bond with their guide dogs through trust, love and loyalty. A bond that is absolutely priceless.

Cost of training a Guide Dog

Close up of a blonde working Guide Dog sitting on the ground wearing a blue coat

It takes two years and costs more than $50,000 to transform a playful puppy into a responsible Guide Dog.

Thanks to the generous and ongoing support of the general public, these Guide Dogs continue to be provided at no cost to clients.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT receives about 5% government funding which means we rely upon public support to continue to provide these life-changing services.

How you can help

Close up of a blonde working Guide Dog sitting on the ground wearing a harness

There are many ways how you can help Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and Australians who are blind or vision impaired. Whether you’re an individual, someone representing a business, a student or a retiree, your support, large or small, will help to raise and train life-changing Guide Dogs and provide free services to those who need it. Find out more about how you can help.

The journey from puppy to Guide Dog

Turning a cute pup into a fully working Guide Dog involves a remarkable process. Here is a brief snapshot.

Puppy breeding

Close up of blonde labrador pup on white sofa

All of our pups are born at the Guide Dog Breeding Centre to ensure they have the temperament and physical qualities suited for a future life as a Guide Dog.

Puppy raising

Happy puppy raising couple, holding a blonde puppy

At 8 weeks, our Guide Dog puppies are picked up by their volunteer puppy raisers, who will train and care for them over the next 12 months.

Introducing these pups to the sights, sounds and obstacles they’ll face in later life is the key task for these Raisers.

School begins

At 12 weeks Guide Dog puppies start to attend Puppy Pre-Schools with their raisers. Here they’ll learn important commands such as sit, stay, drop and how to socialise with other dogs.

14 months

At 14 months it’s time for our Guide Dog puppies to say goodbye to their puppy raising families and return to the Guide Dog Centre where they start their Guide Dog training.

Guide Dog training

Close up of blonde labrador Guide Dog in training, stepping off a train

On return to the Centre, Guide Dogs are assessed for suitability to commence training. The dogs and Instructors will build a trusting relationship over the next 20 weeks of training.

It’s the instructor’s job to build confidence and consistency with their dogs, teaching them how to manage distractions as they visit busier and noisier places.


Guide Dog Olwyn and her graduating Guide Dogs

After 20 weeks of intensive training it’s time for these potential Guide Dogs to take their final test. Before graduating, each dog will be tested on their ability to:

  • Work in the presence of distractions such as food and noises.
  • Navigate obstacles.
  • Travel on public transport.
  • Find landmarks such as traffic lights and locate destinations.

After passing this rigorous test, each dog will take part in a graduation ceremony. Their puppy raisers and sponsors will come to see them officially graduate as a Guide Dog.

Matching process

Blonde Guide Dog labrador in harness, walking with owner

Once a Guide Dog has graduated it is matched with a new handler based on personality, lifestyle and physical traits. Great care goes into this matching process to ensure dog and handler are the perfect fit for each other.

Working life

Close up of a blonde working Guide Dog sitting on the concrete footpath

Once a Guide Dog Team is matched, the focus is on building trust with each other and developing a strong bond. The Guide Dog team start with a training at a basic level, building up to more complex situations as dog and handler gain more confidence. A Guide Dog team will continue training throughout its working life.


After a dedicated working life, a Guide Dog will retire, knowing that it has helped change someone’s life. The handler will have the option to keep the dog as a pet or alternatively the dogs can be rehomed with a new loving family.