Applying and Training with a Guide Dog
Q: Do you have to be totally blind to use a guide dog?
No. Many of our clients have some residual vision; you do need to be legally blind. Good orientation and mobility skills are also essential prior to getting a guide dog.
Q: How old do you have to be to train with a guide dog?
You must be 17 or over to apply but there is no upper age limit. Each person who applies for a Guide Dog is assessed individually.
Q: 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 that have suffered from a stroke, as well as individuals with diabetes, asthma, and hearing impairments have qualified for a guide dog. We would be happy to discuss the implications of your particular disability or health problem to decide whether it would seriously hinder your ability to work with a guide dog.
Q: What breed of dog would 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.
Q: Can I apply to other Guide Dog Schools as well as to Guide Dogs of Texas?
Yes, you may apply to any other Guide Dog School. We request that you let us know if you are called to attend a training course at another School. This is simply so we do not continue to look for a suitable dog for you.
Q: Is it okay if 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 would require that your pet(s) be current on his vaccines, and heartworm and flea prevention, as well as friendly with other animals.
Guide Dog Access and Etiquette
Q: Is it okay to pet a working guide dog?
It’s important for a working dog to stay focused for the safety of the team. It’s an essential courtesy to first ask for permission from the handler before petting a guide dog. Please never talk to or distract a guide dog while they are working.
Q: Are guide dogs allowed to go everywhere a person can go?
Yes. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act and Texas State Law, a guide dog is allowed any place a person can go.
Q: What should drivers do when they see a guide dog in training or a blind person using a guide dog or a long cane?
We encourage drivers to be attentive, as you would with any other pedestrians, especially when turning right-on-red. Guide Dogs of Texas trains its guide dogs in real-world situations, so it’s helpful that you continue going on about your business. Please don’t stop and honk, yell out your window, or otherwise distract someone using a guide dog. The person is listening for traffic flow to determine when it is safe to give the command to go forward and cross the street.
Q: Is it okay for a pet dog to greet a guide dog?
Before you consider allowing your dog to greet a working guide dog, please understand the importance of asking permission first, so the handler can be prepared. Most of the time its best to not distract the guide dog as it will put the handler in danger as the guide dogs attention will not be on clearing the handler of the dangers and obstacles in the environment.
Your pet dog should also be on leash and under control at all times.
Q: What unique skills does a guide dog have?
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.
Guide Dogs are also able to find things in their environment, such as crosswalk buttons, bus stops, counters to find assistance and restrooms)
Q: What are some things guide dogs cannot do?
Read traffic signals and determine when to cross the street. 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 about independently.
Q: Do the guide dogs ever get to play?
Yes! When a guide dog is not working and out of harness, playing and relaxing is definitely encouraged. It’s also a great way for a handler and guide to bond and strengthen their partnership.