On Campus Instruction Overview

Student Life at GDD

An Overview of our Instructional Protocol

Our trainers are experts at pairing students with the most compatible Guide Dog partner. Factors involved with this process are determined by a student’s gait, balance, temperament, home environment, and lifestyle.                                                                                                          

The instruction for new student/Guide Dog teams will take place over a four-week period (28 days). If a student is already an experienced Guide Dog handler and in need of a Successor Dog, the instruction may be reduced to three weeks (21 days). This decision will be determined between the student and the trainer. Keep in mind, the more opportunity you have to bond with your new Guide Dog, the more you will be able to resolve any problems or issues that may come up during the training period. The student/instructor ratio is three to one. There will be no more than six students to a class.

Note: In the event someone desires in-home instruction, the possibility is dependent on a number of factors including location, circumstances, and trainer availability. Determination of in-home instruction is considered on a case-by-case basis. As we are a small school, we are not able to fund in-home instruction and therefore request the student cover the cost necessary for this endeavor which would include hotel, car rental, airfare, and other associated costs and needs.


Instruction takes place six days a week, Monday through Saturday.  Through structured training with their Guide Dog, students begin the process of developing the Guide Dog team. Activities students are exposed to include: instruction in suburban and urban areas; highly congested environments like shopping malls; crossing streets and intersections; maneuvering obstacles from point A to point B; stopping at up and down curbs; right and left turns; and use of elevators and escalators. Students will have the opportunity to ride public busses and the metro link. They will also train in rural and sidewalk-less areas, complete a couple of nighttime routes, and experience the demands of a regional scale airport.

Not only will students be out working with their new Guide Dog, but they will need to attend lectures that are provided by the GDD trainers. These consist of, but are not limited to:  caring for your dog, training methodology, leash and harness commands, mobility, praise and corrections, and the importance of maintaining obedience practice.

As one can imagine, a lot of energy and stamina is needed in order to be able to get through the rigors of class. So, we make Sundays a day of rest.

It is important for students to keep to the instruction schedule as this builds the foundation and strengths the bonding process for a successful handler and Guide Dog team.

Upon successfully completing instruction, GDD hosts a ceremony for its graduating class. The students’ family and friends, puppy raiser volunteers, GDD donors, and local community members are all welcome to attend. This day is highly emotional and brings the whole process full circle.

Practical Considerations:

Guide Dogs of the Desert is located just outside Palm Springs, California, in a remote desert climate. The campus is made up of the kennels, an administration building, student dormitory, dining room, and auditorium. The dormitory consists of individual rooms with private baths for each student.  If flying, students will want to book a reservation for the Palm Springs Airport.

Since classes are held between the months of September and June the weather can vary from being cold, rainy and windy, to hot and dry. Students are encouraged to bring clothing that can be layered in addition to a more formal outfit for pictures and graduation.

Post Graduate Support:

Alumni success is very important to us.  We will make follow-up calls soon after you leave to make sure everything is going smoothly. We address issues and concerns as well as provide mentoring support throughout the lifetime of the Guide Dog team. fund is available to Alumni who have obtained their yearly vet exam. The reimbursement covers up to $100 for Guide Dogs 7 years or younger and up to $150 for dogs 8 years and older.

See “Applying to GDD for a Guide Dog”

Paul Crish

Shay Elenberg

Jacob Harris

Madeleine Harris

Thank You to Our Partners & Sponsors

Berger Foundation
The Auen Foundation

Help our mission by Donating Today!

Guide Dogs of the Desert | California