Pursuing Independent Mobility with a Guide Dog

Thank you for your interest in seeking information on obtaining a Guide Dog from Guide Dogs of the Desert (GDD).  The GDD Admissions Team invites you to explore the website to learn about the realities of becoming a member of a Guide Dog team, the application process, and our training program.   As part of your decision-making process, take some time to reflect and consider what a Guide Dog might do for you personally.

When working with the white cane, the emphasis of the skills is seeking physical contact with objects in the environment. With a Guide Dog, you will negotiate around and through obstacles without coming into contact with them. At Guide Dogs of the Desert we train our dogs to assist you in:

  • Walking in a straight line to prevent you from veering and guide you from point A to point B.
  • Indicating elevation changes in the terrain while you are on a route.
  • Finding and coming to a halt at up and down curbs.
  • Locating the entrance and exit doors of buildings for you.
  • Guiding you around obstacles.
  • Indicating the turns and doorways of your known routes.
  • Stabilizing and enhancing your walking speed.

Most importantly though, a Guide Dog is not a pet. In order to maintain a high skill level, a Guide Dog must be worked consistently. A lot of work goes in to the training of these dogs. They are highly skilled in what they are trained to do, but they are only a complement to your foundational abilities in orientation and mobility. The dog guides you safely, but it is your technical skills that direct the dog where you want to go and make certain the dog goes the way you are directing.

For prospective students to succeed in their journey of pursuing independent mobility with a Guide Dog from our school they must:

  • Be 18 years of age, motivated and emotionally stable, to physically and mentally handle the stress of training with a Guide Dog.
  • Have confident Orientation & Mobility skills (in practice for one year) that are implemented in environments outside the home on a routine basis for which a Guide Dog would be an enhancement.
  • Have the physical stamina for walking at least one mile on a routine basis.
  • Have the ability to judge traffic audibly in order to enhance a safe working relationship with a Guide Dog.
  • Have a clean, settled living and working environment conducive to the safe and effective use and care of a Guide Dog.
  • Have the capability of independently providing for the care and financial support of a Guide Dog in sickness and in health.
  • Have the acceptance that a Guide Dog will draw interest and attention from the public, in a way that a white cane does not.
  • Have truthfully and accurately represented themselves throughout the application process.
  • Have successfully complete a criminal background check.
  • Have a willingness to learn and apply techniques for the responsible handling and care of a Guide Dog.

Having a Guide Dog can be a most rewarding and transformative experience in your life. To appreciate this, we strongly encourage you to read, A Handbook for the Prospective Guide Dog Handler: 4th edition. This book was written and produced by Guide Dog Users Incorporated and is available on NLS-Bard, the GDUI Website, Amazon, and the American Council of the Blind. You may also get information from the National Federation of the Blind, National Guide Dog Users, www.nfb-nagdu.org.

The link below contains an informative article about Guide Dogs schools, their application process and other information, written from the perspective of an alumnus.

Here’s How to Get a Guide Dog, by Forbes Contributor, Peter Slatin

For information regarding vision loss and blindness, please visit The American Foundation for the Blind, www.afb.org .

Our services and instruction program are available to legally blind and visually impaired individuals from all over the United States, and thanks to our generous donors and supporters, there is no cost. This means that for those who are accepted into our program, all of the equipment, meals, and 28-day stay for instruction with a new Guide Dog are provided free of charge. The only cost that will be incurred is travel to and from our school.

We wish you success in exploring this most important life-changing decision. Please don’t hesitate to call the Admissions Team at 760-329-2377 or email admissions@gddca.org if you have any questions, need clarification, or if you would like to know of other resources that could help you in your process.

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