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.
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.
It takes a special type of dog to become a Guide Dog. When these dogs are pups, they are selected to go into Guide Dog training based on important factors that show they are ready, such as eagerness to work and good concentration. Once they have been selected, their training will commence.
The cost of training a Guide Dog and how it is funded
It takes two years and costs more than $50,000 to transform a playful puppy into a responsible Guide Dog. This is due to the rigorous training and preparation that goes into the transformation. These dogs have enormous responsibility, therefore we ensure they are put through proper training.
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 to the vision impaired.
How you can help provide the vision impaired with life-changing help
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.
Some of the ways you can assist include:
- Becoming a puppy sponsor: As a puppy sponsor, you will be part of a community following your chosen puppy’s journey to becoming a Guide Dog. Your sponsorship will cover important costs ranging from training and enrichment equipment to maintenance of our kennel facilities and veterinary costs.
- Making a donation: Your donation will go towards ensuring anyone who needs a Guide Dog does not have to go without as the sad facts right now right now is that three out of every four people who need a Guide Dog don't have one.
- Volunteering as a puppy raiser: As a puppy raiser you will be responsible for giving the best possible care and appropriate training to a Guide Dog puppy for 12 months. By looking after a Guide Dog during the pivotal stages of the pups development you will be influential in helping us assist the vision impaired.
- Forming a corporate partnership with us: We form partnerships through mutually beneficial partnerships or puppy sponsorship which will promote your company and get staff involved in our cause.
To find out more information, have a look at our how you can help page.
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 of the process a pup goes through to become a Guide Dog from the breeding process to their retirement.
The journey begins with puppy breeding at our world class facility
The beginning of a Guide Dog’s life starts at our world class Breeding Centre. Our breeding process ensures that these dogs are born with the ability to inherit characteristics they need such as temperament and physical qualities to meet the demanding needs of a Guide Dog’s work.
For the first 8 weeks of their lives, the pups are then kept at the Breeding Centre with their mothers and are nurtured and socialised on a daily basis.
Our puppies are then raised for the next 12 months by volunteer puppy raisers
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.
Puppy raisers have a special responsibility in ensuring that these pups are loved and cared for while introducing these pups to the sights, sounds and obstacles they’ll face in later life.If you would like to become a puppy raiser, visit our puppy raiser page to learn more.
Introducing these pups to the sights, sounds and obstacles they’ll face in later life is the key task for these Raisers.
Puppy Pre-School begins
At 12 weeks Guide Dog puppies start to attend Puppy Pre-Schools with their raisers. This is important in teaching the pups important commands such as sit, stay, drop and how to socialise with other dogs.
Pups return to the Guide Dog Centre at 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. The work these volunteer puppy raisers have done has shaped the ability for the pup to transition to a Guide Dog.
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 Graduation
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.
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.
The working life of a graduate Guide Dog
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.
What happens when a Guide Dog retires?
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.