Guide Dog Training Overview
The Guide Dog Foundation welcomes students into its community and supports them with an uncompromised commitment to excellence, from highly empathetic and certified trainers, to meticulously constructed curriculum. We're sensitive to the changing needs of our clients, and with our innovative two-week training program with a 2:1 student/instructor ratio, we can focus on incorporating a blend of customized training formats that meet an incoming student's goals and objectives. We craft a program students will find exciting to participate in as it's relevant to their specific lifestyle and needs.
We carefully listen to each incoming student and work to match them with the right dog, so as they graduate as a team, they are ready to take on new challenges with a greater sense of independence. Our campus in Smithtown, New York provides an environment where students can learn safely with caring instructors. We pursue excellence in everything we do, working tirelessly to develop innovative training methods that advance the lives of all our guide dog teams.
The Guide Dog Foundation works with residents of the United States and Canada who are age 16 and older and classified as legally or totally blind. We also require that each applicant have the ability to independently travel using their current mobility device. Applicants must also be physically able to work with a guide dog and also be able to care for their dog.
One of the hallmarks of the Guide Dog Foundation is its meticulous matching program to ensure that each student is matched with the dog that best suits that person’s mobility, personality, lifestyle, and physical needs.
We also offer cross-trained guide dogs to perform service dog tasks through the help of our related service dog organization, America's VetDogs. These service dog tasks can be added to a training program for qualified students on a case-by-case basis whose mobility has been further compromised and tasks can include providing balance, retrieval and hearing assistance.
Building a Team
Guide Dog Foundation students come from all backgrounds and all geographical locations. Most are blind or visually impaired, but they may also have other disabilities. However, they share one common goal: to live without boundaries. Applicants for guide dogs must be at least high school age and be legally blind. Learn more about program qualifications here.
The majority of students come to our 10-acre campus in Smithtown, New York, for our two-week in-residence training program. Classes are kept small to ensure personalized attention for each student and their new guide dog. Over the course of the time spent with us, the student and dog bond and learn how to work together as a team. We offer a variety of training options to best meet an individual’s needs: on-campus training, combination training, or home training. Our trainers will help determine where our students will be best served while trying to accommodate their preferences. Learn more about what to expect in class.
Students will also participate in various educational workshops on grooming and care for their dog, obedience, accessibility awareness and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as assistance dog etiquette.
Our students and their dogs are guaranteed a lifetime of aftercare. After the team returns home, our staff follows up with each graduate team to inquire how they're working together. If follow up training is requested, one of our field service representatives will work with them to provide personalized attention in their home environment as they adjust to their daily routine.
Field Service Representatives
The Foundation has field service representatives who are skilled guide and service dog instructors who support our program across the United States and Canada. They assist with in-home training, graduate follow-up training and aftercare if necessary, and they can assist potential students during the application process. Once a dog is placed in a consumer’s home, a field service representative will be their main contact if they have any questions or further training needs. As with our on-campus training staff, our field reps are committed to providing quality follow-up services to our graduates for the entire working life of the guide or service dog team.
To make the students’ stay as comfortable as possible, the on-campus Student Residence Hall offers single rooms with private baths and individual climate control. All student residence rooms have private telephone lines and an Ethernet connection; there is also free Wi-Fi. During their stay, our formally trained chef provides delicious meals while meeting all special dietary requirements. The Student Union features a spacious dining room, comfortable lobby, a snack room, a smoking area, laundry facilities, a recreation lounge with new entertainment center, an exercise and grooming room, computer lab (with adaptive technology for student use), and an outdoor patio. Take an online tour of our campus HERE.