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Guide Dog Training Program

Home / Guide Dog Training Program


Eligibility:  Who is eligible for guide dog training through your facility?

The applicant must be:

  1. legally blind; 20/200 or less than 20° field of vision
  2. be at least 18 years of age
  3. able to walk ½ -1 hour routes two times daily
  4. have had formal recent orientation and mobility instruction or an evaluation by our staff of travel skills
  5. possess leadership capabilities necessary for a successful guide dog team
  6. be emotionally stable

Long Cane Mobility:  Is long/white cane training a prerequisite?

Guide Dogs of the Desert recommend that each student have formal orientation and mobility instruction. If too much time has passed since your training, you may wish to contact organizations in your area that provide this type of instruction to make arrangements for an evaluation of your cane travel skills. If you are a confident and successful cane traveler, the chances for success with a guide dog will be greatly increased.

Unfamiliar Areas:  If an applicant does not travel in unfamiliar areas, may they still apply for a guide dog?


Age:  What are the minimum and maximum ages considered for guide dog use?

Minimum age limit is 18 years old, and there is no maximum age limit.

Physical Stamina:  What sort of physical stamina is expected of your trainees?

The applicant must be able to walk ½ – 1 hour routes two times per day.  For applicants with special needs, routes can be modified according to ability.

Walking Distance:  What is the average distance traveled on lessons during guide dog training?  The maximum?

The average distance traveled in one lesson is approximately 1 – 1 ½ miles.  The maximum distance is dependent upon the student’s capabilities and amount of time available.  Routes can be modified according to the student’s abilities.  Also, there are a couple of days during the training period that are longer working days but optional for students with limited capabilities.

Home Training:  Is there an option for home-based as well as center-based training?

Because we are a small organization with limited staff, we are unable to provide home-based or in-home training at this time.

Duration of Training:  What is the duration of guide dog training?  How much training time is spent in the user’s home area?

Our training program is 28 days at our campus.  We provide follow-up assistance in the home area after the training period, if required.

Choice of Breed:  Can applicants request specific breeds and gender?  If so, what dog breeds are typically available?

Yes, although it would be most beneficial to the applicant if he/she were open to breed and gender to ensure the best match.  The Labrador Retriever is the typical breed we use.  We use Standard Poodles on a very limited basis for people who are allergic to dogs or have immediate family members with an allergy problem.  We also train a limited number of Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds.

Both males and females are neutered and make equally good guides.

Our dogs are approximately two and a half years old at the time of graduation.  Occasionally, we may reissue an older dog to an elderly or special needs student.

Ownership:  Is title transferred to the guide dog user?

Transfer of title is generally offered upon graduation.

Cost of the Dog:  Is there a charge for the guide dog and the training?  If so, what is the amount?

No.  The cost of the dog, the dog’s training, the student’s training, the harness, the leash, the collar, and accommodation at our training facility is all free of charge to the student and is funded by private donations.

Specialized Services:  Is your organization willing to provide hypoallergenic dogs for users and/or family members, who are allergic to dogs?  Other specialized services?

We have recently begun offering Standard Poodles where the student (and/or their immediate family members) is allergic to dogs.  An applicant who desires a Poodle may have to wait longer to come into class.  Our specialty is to provide services to those with special needs.  We will provide the necessary accommodations for a student’s individual needs.

Mixed Services:  Does your facility offer training in long cane mobility or electronic mobility aids as well as guide dog mobility training?

We do offer some long cane mobility training on a case-by-case basis.

Multiple Disabled Blind:  Does your organization provide services to persons who are visually impaired and challenged with other disabling conditions?

Guide Dogs of the Desert provides high quality guide dogs and individual instruction to the blind, elderly blind, and the blind with special needs.  This is the reason our organization was founded in 1972.  Our student to instructor ratio is 3:1 to ensure that we can fulfill this mission.  Unfortunately, at this time we cannot accommodate individuals that are totally deaf or use wheelchairs.

Follow-up Services:  Will an instructor be sent to help newly trained guide dog users through the settling process with their new dog in their home community?  Will an instructor be sent to assist an experienced unit, if difficult problems arise?

While in training, we will address any unique situations a team will encounter on a regular basis when they return home.  We provide follow-up assistance in the form of phone calls, emails, and if necessary, in-home visits to all of our graduates for the life of the team.


Areas Without Sidewalks:  Describe training options for travel in unpaved/rural areas.

Sidewalk-less travel is covered during the 28-day training period.

Escalators:  Are your dogs trained to manage escalator travel?

Yes.  Although it is up to the student whether he/she wants to learn this method of mobility based on his/her comfort level.

Mass Transit Training:  Are your dogs trained for airplane, train, streetcar, subway, and bus travel?

Yes.  During training the students learn how to travel with a guide dog on various mass transit; including buses and light-rail.  There will also be a trip to the Palm Springs International Airport to walk through the TSA screening process.

Up-Curbs:  Are your dogs trained to stop at up-curbs after crossing the street?


Initiated Crossings:  Do your dogs require a command to cross at an intersection or do they step off when safe to do so?

Our dogs require a command to cross an intersection.  It is the student’s responsibility to decide if it’s safe to cross.

Relieving:  What procedures for relieving dogs are taught at your facility?

We teach our students to recognize what the dog is doing during relieving time (urinating or defecating) and how to mark the spot so that they can clean up after the dog.  We also provide a baggie holder that attaches to the harness to encourage responsible dog owners.

Retired Dogs:  Are user’s allowed to retire their dogs to the person of their choice?  Who decides when a dog is to be retired or retrained?

In most instances the user is allowed to retire the dog to the person of their choice.  Both the user and our staff will come to a mutual decision as to when the dog is to be retired.  If the user cannot keep the dog or does not have a person to give the dog to, the dog may be placed with the puppy raiser.  If they cannot take the dog, we have a very long waiting list of people who would like to adopt a retired guide.  The decision to retrain a dog is up to the school and is based on the age, health, and individual situation.


Transportation:  Does your organization pay for round trip airfare and incidental travel expenses to and from your facility?

Travel to and from our facility is the only cost that we ask our students to assume.

Accommodations:  Are there one or two trainees to a room?  Shared bathroom?

We provide our students with private rooms.  In addition, we have a common room, a laundry room, a multimedia room with computer programs and Internet access, a patio smoking area, and an excellent chef.

Internet Access:  Are there computers available to enable clients to access email and the Internet?

Yes.  In our multimedia room we have two computers with installed speech and large print programs. There is also wireless internet.

Climate:  When is the most moderate weather encountered in your region?

Usually October through May is when the weather is moderate, although December through February can be cooler.  We only offer classes from September to June.

Dress Code:  Please describe your organization’s dress code.

We offer a casual atmosphere that is consistent with the California and Palm Springs lifestyles.

Supplies:  What clothing and supplies are recommended?

Since we are located in the low desert the weather is usually mild; but we can experience quite a variation in temperatures.  Clothing that can be worn in layers is highly recommended as well as rain gear.  We also strongly recommend a backpack so that both hands are free to work the guide dog.  Since there are usually two routes a day and we give our students individual instruction there is down time that can be filled with reading, games, knitting, hobbies, etc.  We travel almost everyday so things must be portable.  We recommend bringing any devices used to assist the student in daily living to acclimate the dog during training.

Diabetes:  What supports are on hand for persons with diabetes?

We will provide any necessary support to a student who needs transportation to doctor appointments.  Our chef can modify meals for diabetics.  It is our policy that a diabetic possess the ability to successfully monitor his/her own blood sugar and administer his/her own medications as indicative of being able to care for a guide dog.  We do not have medical personnel on staff.

Foot Health:  What supports are on hand to prevent and manage the onset of foot problems?

Students are highly recommended to keep staff aware of any preexisting or new medical problems.  Transportation to a doctor is provided, when necessary.  We highly recommend students make sure new shoes have been “broken in” before coming into class.  It is also recommended that students increase their walking routes prior to the beginning of class.

Medical Care:  If a trainee requires medical attention, how are the charges managed?

Medical charges are to be covered by the student’s insurance.

Recreation:  What are the social, scenic, cultural, and entertainment opportunities in your region?

Sundays are students’ day off.  We encourage our students to have visitors on this day.  State law mandates that an instructor be with a student when working a guide dog, up to graduation, so the dog cannot leave with the student on Sundays.  Therefore, if the student wishes to leave campus with a visitor, we ask that they only be gone from 9am – 12pm or 1pm – 4pm since these are the only times the dog’s needs do not need to be looked after.  We greatly stress to our students the importance of spending time bonding with the guide dog outside of class time in these first few weeks.

Sighted Assistants:  Are volunteer sighted guides available for shopping and other outings?

Since we are located in a somewhat remote area in which transportation to downtown Palm Springs is not easy, we try to incorporate shopping trips, restaurant meals, etc. into our training program.

On Sundays we have volunteers who will transport a student to church services, if desired.

You may contact:
Linda Samulski
Outreach and Student Services Coordinator
760-329-6257 x262 or at
for more information on our training program.



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