The Matching Process

Making the Perfect Match Between Dog and Handler

At Guide Dogs of the Desert, we feel that the pairing of a dog to a handler is the most important factor in the success of a team.  We go to great lengths to make sure that every team is carefully put together so that both parties benefit.  A great match can mean the difference between an early retirement and a lifelong companion.

A black lab sits outdoors, with a Mountain View behind him. A guide Dog hardness leans against the front of him

Here is a list of questions and answers addressing the matching process for a guide dog from GDD:

How long is the wait?

When you have completed the application to our school, the wait time for a new Guide Dog can vary from a number of months to two years.  Our waiting list is not a first-come, first-served system.  After the dogs have been in training for several months, and the trainers feel that they have a good understanding of who that dog is, we consult our applicant list.  We match each dog to the right person.  Your dog may already be in training, or it may not have yet been born!

How are the dogs matched to applicants?

There are several factors that go into the matching process.  The trainers know these dogs in and out: they know their guiding style, their personality and what they are like in their down-time.

Every aspect of an applicant’s life must be taken into consideration when finding them the right Guide Dog.  An applicant’s home area, the people around the applicant, other pets, the home environment, places the dog will be working, and the amount of work the dog will be doing, all strongly influence the best match.  We also consider the applicant’s medical needs, overall personality and their personal preferences.

It is very important that you are completely honest on the application.  Please do not give answers you think we want to hear.  We want to hear the whole truth – good and bad.  There’s no such thing as the perfect applicant, there is only the perfect applicant for each dog.

What about breed preference?

You may have an idea of a breed you’d like to have.  We ask that you please keep an open mind.  Each dog is an individual, despite the dogs you may have met or the breed standard.  Guide Dogs of the Desert uses Labrador Retrievers and Standard Poodles for those students and immediate family members with allergies.

Labrador Retrievers:
Labs make up a significant number of dogs that we breed and issue. The main reason is their versatility. A single litter of 6 puppies can contain dogs with 6 distinct personalities: from the extremely energetic, to the serious couch-potato, and everything in between. 

Standard Poodle:
Guide Dogs of the Desert is one of the few schools that issues Standard Poodles on a regular basis as Guide Dogs. While we have had a lot of success with many of our dogs, the average poodle is not an easy dog to train or work with. Their high intelligence can be a double-edged sword. Poodles pick up on concepts very easily and can negotiate very complex areas with ease.

How do the dogs adapt to hot and cold temperature?

Guide Dogs of the Desert uses dog breeds that are able to adapt to a variety of temperatures.  The double coat of the Lab can keep them protected in both extreme heat and cold.  A Standard Poodle’s coat can be cut to accommodate their environment.  A preference for weather type would come down to the individual personality of the dog, rather than based on their coloring or coat length.  This preference is noted by the trainers and taken into consideration when matching to a handler.

What is the bottom line?

While multiple factors may play a role in preference, please keep in mind the true reason you are looking for a Guide Dog.  Your end goal of this application process is to partner with a new companion that will make your mobility safer and easier.

Trust the trainers with their professional opinions and know that our ultimate goal is to pair our clients with the best dog match possible. While the above breed specifics discuss personality types, remember that each dog is an individual. 

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