About Us | Questions and Answers
Labradors and Golden Retrievers (and first-crosses) have proven to be best suited to be guide dogs because they are highly trainable, responsive, intelligent, not easily distracted, and have calm temperaments. Occasionally, we provide German Shepherds if a student requests it, and we have provided Standard Poodles to students who are allergic to long-hair dogs.
The average working life for a Guide Dog is 8 years. Retired Guide Dogs may be kept as pets by their blind partner, or adopted by a loving home such as the original puppy-raising family. We have a long waiting list of loving families who want to adopt retired dogs.
All of the dogs we breed and raise assist someone in need. Over half become guide dogs, and the rest that don’t meet our high standards are offered to people with Special Needs—such as blind or autistic children, IDF soldiers suffering from PTSD, or to those with other physical, emotional or psychological needs.
There is no difference.
No. A guide dog’s job is to lead a person who is blind safely. The breeds that are used for guide dogs are calm and non-aggressive, and they do not attack strangers or bite. It is extremely important that the dogs remain calm when they are working in crowded or noisy public places.
It varies depending on factors such as the number of breeding dogs and size of litters, and the number of dogs that are required to enter guide dog training.
There is no difference. The first guide dog school in America is called The Seeing Eye. They trademarked the term “Seeing Eye Dog”, but there is no significant difference between the training of a Guide Dog in Israel, and a Seeing Eye Dog from Morristown, New Jersey.
Approximately 75-120 pups.
Each litter is assigned a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and the dogs are given English names, to avoid confusion so the dog will not hear its name called out while working in public spaces in Israel.
We provide a Guide Dog to the visually impaired for free and “with no strings attached”, so our clients are not asked to provide photographs and updates. We also feel strongly about ensuring the confidentiality of clients.
No, but thank you for asking. We breed our own puppies from a set of parents who are carefully screened for trainability, health and temperament. Occasionally, we will accept puppies from breeders or other Guide Dog schools whose dogs conform to our rigorous health requirements. Good genes are critical to a successful breeding program.
The Israel Guide Dog Center maintains ownership of the guide dog from birth through retirement. Once a guide dog retires, ownership is transferred either to its blind partner or to the new adoptive family.
Applicants must be Israeli citizens, at least 16 years old, legally blind, physically and emotionally capable of caring for a dog, and must be able to provide a safe and loving environment. All applicants are interviewed and screened to determine whether a guide dog will provide the best solution for mobility. Since we have a long waiting list, we won’t provide a Guide Dog to simply be a companion.
After we receive an inquiry, one of our Mobility Instructors will visit an applicant in their home to evaluate their circumstances and to make sure that the environment is appropriate for a Guide Dog. We also provide a three-day orientation course at our center for people who are not sure that having a Guide Dog is the right step for them.
Professional trainers at the Center evaluate each dog and each applicant. Dogs are assessed for their size, strength, and temperament. They are then carefully matched to suit each client according to his or her physical strength, pace and lifestyle.
It takes approximately a year to a year-and-a-half to obtain a Guide Dog in Israel. We are trying to grow to meet the demand and shorten the waiting time, but our success depends on finding generous donors who understand why it is so important to help visually impaired Israelis resume their lives as productive citizens.
Yes. The instructors, in some cases, will provide domiciliary training or at-home instruction, usually to more experienced Guide Dog users but also in such situations where the person is needed at home and cannot leave a spouse for three weeks of instruction at the Center.
To volunteer as a puppy raiser, you must live in Israel, complete an application and submit it. If you are accepted, it usually takes between 6 months to a year before you will receive a puppy. Puppy raisingis our most popular volunteer program.
Most people who are legally blind are not totally blind. Many can see colors or shapes; however, it is very important to let the Guide Dog provide safe mobility for the team. If someone has too much sight, they stop relying on the dog, and the partnership breaks down.
There is no upper age limit for receiving a guide dog. Elderly people can continue to use a guide dog as long as they can walk safely and at a reasonable pace and care for the dog.
We provide transportation to and from the center. We also provide the housing and meals during the three-week training course. All of this is done free of charge.
Guide Dogs are trained in the same way as many pets, with lots of repetition and positive reinforcement. At the age of two months, puppies leave their litter and spend about a year in homes with volunteer puppy raisers where they learn left from right and right from wrong. The raisers expose them to everyday sights and sounds and also teach them basic obedience and commands. Puppy raisers provide socialization while giving lots of love. When the dog is 12-14 months old, it returns to our center for assessment, and if selected, begins a four to five month course of formal harness training with a professional Mobility Instructor. During this time, they learn Guide Dog skills, such as finding sidewalks and avoiding obstacles. When the dog successfully completes training, it’s matched with a blind Israeli. The new partners then train together, under the supervision of our instructors for three weeks at our center and an additional week of instruction in their home.
Dogs don’t see colors the same way we do and can’t read traffic lights. The dog’s blind partner learns to judge the movement of traffic by its sounds. At the appropriate time, he or she will command the dog, “kadema” (forward). The dog will not carry out the command unless it is safe to do so. This is called “intelligent disobedience.”
The dog doesn’t. People who are blind generally know how to reach a destination by knowing how many blocks to go, in which direction to turn, etc. The person gives the dog commands that will enable the dog to guide them safely to their destinations. The basic commands are “forward,” “right,” and “left.” In all, the dogs understand about 40 commands—in Hebrew. (Click here for a list of commands.) In a new or unfamiliar location, person who isblind—like sighted people—ask for directions and communicate them to the dog by using the proper commands. Sometimes when a team (Guide Dog and partner) have frequently walked to a certain destination, the dog will remember the route. However, it is always the blind partner’s responsibility to know where to go.
The dog is trained to stop at all curbs and wait for its partner’s command to go forward or to turn.
A Guide Dog must learn to sit, stay and turn on command. It must learn to ignore any distractions, including children playing, other animals and birds while working.
Yes. The dog is taught to judge its partner’s width as well as its own. This enables the dog to safely guide the blind person around other people, parked cars on sidewalks, telephone or electric poles, etc. While more difficult, the dog is also taught to judge height which enables it to guide the person safely to avoid overhead obstacles such as low-hanging branches.
A dog and person can operate safely at the completion of the instruction period. However, the dog must get adjusted to its new home and to its partner’s routine. It takes about six months before the pair can function smoothly as a team.
Guide dogs trained at the Center are taught to deal with difficult conditions that exist in Israel, including numerous types of obstacles on the sidewalk, difficult traffic conditions, and the hot climate.
Our instructors are always available to address any questions our clients may have about training or care of their Guide Dog. Our trainers also conduct follow-up interviews by phone with clients who have just completed their four-week instruction, and will follow up with regular home visits. Follow-up is an essential part of our program as we provide a lifetime commitment to all of our graduates.
Guide Dog Schools usually train their own Guide Dog Instructors. As an aspiring instructor you would need to seek an apprenticeship at the school of your choice. Once accepted you can expect the apprenticeship to last for a period of at least three years before being fully qualified. During that time you will learn aspects of dog care and guide dog training, mobility and orientation, as well as working directly with blind and visually impaired people. The job demands the ability to take responsibility, working independently and as part of a team. The instructor is required to work in all types of weather. The work is challenging and rewarding.