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Frequently Asked Questions

Home / Our Programs / Guide Dog Program / Frequently Asked Questions

General Information, Guide Dog Training, and Class and Campus

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

An applicant must:

  • Be legally blind: 20/200 or less than 20° field of vision.
  • Be at least 18 years of age.
  • Have various established travel routines to provide a guide dog with adequate work.
  • Have sufficient Orientation & Mobility skills to be able to direct a guide dog to known destinations in their home area.
  • Have the ability to judge traffic audibly to determine all clear “safe to cross”.
  • Arrive for class in good physical and mental health, and be able to walk 1-1 ½ miles daily.
  • Be capable of independently providing for the care and financial support of a guide dog in sickness and in health.
  • Be in a settled, stable, long term home environment.
  • Give us a truthful and accurate representation of yourself throughout the application process.

Vision: Do I have to be totally blind to apply for a guide dog?

No, but your remaining vision needs to be evaluated to see if you are an appropriate candidate. People with some vision need to be able to resist guiding the dog and must let the dog be responsible for the team’s safety. Each person is evaluated on an individual basis when considering admission.


Long Cane Mobility:  Is long cane training a prerequisite?

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


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

The applicant will undergo rigorous training, both physical and mental.  They will spend 28 days training and will be expected to walk a minimum of ½ hour twice daily in all types of terrain, with their guide dog, regardless of weather conditions.


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.


Cost of the Dog:  Is there a charge for the guide dog and the training? 

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 and is funded by private donations.


Ownership: Do Guide Dogs of the Desert graduates own their dogs, or does the school retain ownership?

After one year of the student’s successful graduation, they assume full ownership rights and assume full responsibility for the obligations and risks associated with ownership of their guide dog. Guide Dogs of the Desert does ask that harnesses be returned to the school upon retirement of any of their guide dogs. In the rare instance that they become aware of allegations of abuse after the assumption of ownership responsibility, the school will contact the graduate and may further assess the allegations. In the event that animal abuse or neglect is proven, Guide Dogs of the Desert defers to local enforcement authorities, including local humane societies, who generally possess the legal authority to remove the animal from the abusive environment.


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 they 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 limited basis for people who are allergic to dogs or have immediate family members with an allergy problem.  Both males and females are neutered and make equally good guides.  Our dogs are approximately two years old at the time of graduation.


Wait Time: How long do I have to wait for a class date?

Keep in mind that class confirmation is dependent upon having the right dog to match with you, not just when we have room in a class. Right now, the wait for class placement can range from 6 months to a year and a half. 


Escalators:  Are your dogs trained to manage escalator travel?

Yes.  Although it is up to the student whether they want to learn this method of mobility based on their 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.  There will also be a trip to the Palm Springs International Airport to walk through and experience the TSA screening process.


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 all clear and “safe to cross”.


Relieving:  What procedures for relieving the 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.


Follow-up Training Services:  Will an instructor help the guide dog user with their new dog in their home community?

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.


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.


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

The exact cost and circumstances are determined on a case by case basis. As we are a small school, we are not able to fund in/home training, so we ask clients to raise the funds necessary for this endeavor. The cost includes hotel, car rental, airfare, and other associated needs.



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