We have compiled a list of questions and answers frequently asked by potential clients. We hope this helps you gain a better understanding of what Guide Dogs of Texas can do for guide dog users.
What does a guide dog do?
A guide dog is trained to guide his client in a straight line unless told otherwise, avoiding obstacles on the ground, to both sides and above. He will stop at curbs, stairs, and locate doorways to regularly visited destinations. He should maintain a straight line when crossing a road, but will not decide when it is safe to cross. Making the judgment as to when it is safe to cross a road with a guide dog would be identical to making that judgment when using a long cane. It is the client’s responsibility to decide when and where to cross roads. Working a guide dog is a partnership that offers a potentially unique, safe and effective way of getting around independently.
How will a guide dog help me?
Thousands of visually impaired people in all walks of life have found that a guide dog brings new freedom and independence. In a world where the pace of life and crowded noisy streets can make getting around difficult and stressful for a person with a visual impairment, a guide dog can greatly increase your confidence. A true partnership can develop with the guide dog becoming a companion and friend. In addition, many clients find that a guide dog is a social asset. People often are interested and curious about guide dogs and often approach to chat or offer assistance. This can reduce the feeling of isolation which some visually impaired people experience.
What are the age limits for applying?
You must be 17 or older to apply but there is no upper age limit. Each person who applies for a guide dog is assessed individually.
Can I apply if I still have some vision?
Some useful remaining sight need not prevent you from training with a guide dog. However, you will need to be able to use this vision to assist the dog rather than hinder it. When negotiating obstacles, for example, the dog’s decision to go one way must not be questioned. Because of the precise way a guide dog needs to be worked, you might be more mobile solely using your remaining residual vision. The instructor carrying out your interview assessment will discuss the implications of this with you.
What if I have other physical disabilities or health problems?
Many visually impaired people with additional disabilities have successfully qualified with a guide dog. For example, individuals who have suffered from a stroke, as well as individuals with diabetes, asthma, and hearing impairments have qualified for a guide dog. We will be happy to discuss the implications of your particular disability or health problem to decide whether it would hinder your ability to work with a guide dog.
Can I have a pet dog or cat at home?
Yes. Many of our dogs are raised in households with cats, dogs and other pets. We require that your pet(s) be current on his vaccines, and heartworm and flea prevention, and be friendly with other animals.
What happens if I decide to apply?
If you are interested in applying for a guide dog, please call the office for a phone consultation. If you and the instructors feel that you might benefit from a guide dog, an application will be sent to you. This form has a section for you to complete and a medical report to be completed by your physician. Once we have received both of these forms, an instructor will visit you to discuss your needs. The instructor will be happy to answer any questions you have. The information we obtain from you will help decide whether a dog is suitable for you and, if so, exactly what type of dog you require.
How long will I have to wait for a dog?
Your future success with a guide dog is most dependent on our matching you correctly with the right dog. Your particular needs and the types of dogs in training, at that time, will determine the length of waiting time.
What breed of dog will I be given?
The breed of dog we offer you will probably be determined by your needs and abilities. We use Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and Lab Golden Retriever Crosses. Males and females are used in roughly equal numbers, and all are spayed or neutered.
Can I apply to other guide dog schools as well as with Guide Dogs of Texas?
Yes. You may apply to any other guide dog school. However, we request that you let us know if you are called to attend a training course at another school. This is so we do not continue to look for a suitable dog for you.
How will I know when a dog has been found for me?
When we have a potential match for you, we will call you to talk about the dog and schedule a visit. This is a very exciting time as you meet your potential guide for the first time! An instructor will bring the dog to your home, allowing you to meet the dog and discuss any questions you might have. Provided you and the instructor are both satisfied with the match, class will be scheduled. After this visit, you will have at least four weeks to prepare for class as we specifically prepare your dog for you. We strive to schedule class at a time that is conducive to you, as well as the needs of other clients and the school.
How do I prepare for class?
Walk every day – twice a day if you can. Walking is a big part of class and building your physical endurance is crucial to a pleasant and successful class experience. If you are diabetic, try to walk in the morning and afternoon to discover how the exercise will affect your blood sugar and how to best plan for class. If you are employed, please arrange with your supervisor for time off in order to focus on your new guide dog. You will need approximately four weeks to complete your guide dog training.
What does class involve?
Training is as important for you as it is for your dog. Your dog’s training will quickly break down if you do not work the dog properly. Class usually lasts three to four weeks and includes training at the Guide Dogs of Texas center, as well as training in your home area. At the start of training you will learn basic obedience and dog handling skills, as well as grooming, feeding and dog care. You will have a minimum of two training walks each day. Each walk will last from 45 to 90 minutes. These walks teach you how to work your dog in various environments. Informal lectures on some evenings will add to your understanding about dogs and guide dog mobility.
Who else will be in class with me?
Usually there will be one or two clients in class at a time. Some clients may have had a guide dog before. This will not affect you, if you are a first time client, because the training is done on an individual basis.
Do I have to pass a test to graduate with my guide dog?
No. There is not a single walk or route specific test that assesses whether you have achieved a safe and effective standard to graduate. Your working relationship should develop sufficiently during class for you to be able to work safely and effectively at home. Of course, you will have various problems during class to overcome, but your instructor will work through these with you, keeping you fully informed on your progress.
What happens after I graduate?
Upon graduation, you will sign an agreement with Guide Dogs of Texas, which outlines your responsibilities as a guide dog owner, and those of Guide Dogs of Texas towards you as our client. After graduation, your instructor will visit you on different occasions over the course of the next few weeks and months to carry out post-class training. This will help you to continue to work your guide dog in your home area and deal with any settling–in problems that often occur shortly after returning home. The number of these visits will depend upon your needs and the complexity of the routes you need to cover.
How do I look after my dog?
During class you will be taught how to groom your dog. You will be expected to do this daily. The dog’s feeding needs will be discussed during class, and you will return home with a recommended diet. It is your responsibility to make sure your dog does not become overweight. You will also be taught how to give a physical check of your dog. The dog must be taken to a vet every six months for a routine check-up. You will be issued a Health Record Book for your dog, and on each veterinary visit your vet will complete a report, a copy of which you will return to Guide Dogs of Texas. Your instructor will discuss with you suitable relief routines and procedures for your dog, as well as advise you on the suitability of free running areas in your locality.
Will Guide Dogs of Texas keep in touch once my post-class training has finished?
Yes. As part of our ACES Program (Annual Continuing Education and Support), visits are made by an instructor throughout your dog’s working life to ensure that both of you are working safely and happily together. Once your dog reaches 9-years-old, an instructor will carry out a re-interview with you to determine if you wish to re-train with a new dog when your guide dog retires. Upon retirement of the dog, you will have the option to retain your dog as a pet if you are willing and able.
What if a problem arises with my guide dog?
Advice is always available over the phone, but in an emergency an instructor will make a priority ACES visit when appropriate. If the problem cannot be resolved during the visit, we might consider a refresher course at the training center for dog, owner, or both if needed.
How much will a guide dog cost me?
The cost to you is $1. Guide Dogs of Texas covers the cost of your board and lodging during class, as well as your transportation back home. You will need to arrange your travel to San Antonio. If you have a medical condition that requires you to eat special snacks, bring those items to training. A harness, leash, collar, grooming equipment, feeding bowls, bedding and a few toys will be provided to you upon graduation from the training course. Upon returning home, you will need to cover the ongoing costs of feeding, care, toys and veterinary expenses.