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Guide Dogs of Texas’ ACES (Annual Continuing Education and Support) Program

Guide Dogs of Texas is proud to provide our ACES Program. Every year, Instructors visit each Client team.  The purpose of these visits is to ensure that each Client and dog team is working in a safe and efficient manner. Additionally, Instructors offer assistance learning new routes, incorporating new means of public transportation, solving access issues, talking with family, friends or members of the public about the role of a Guide Dog, and addressing any health issues of the dog.  These visits are a time for Clients to add to their knowledge of Guide Dog mobility and to continue to improve their freedom and mobility. As well as the Annual Continuing Education Visits, Instructors provide Support Visits as well. If a Client has an immediate issue that cannot be resolved over the phone, Instructors will make every effort to schedule a Support Visit.  A few examples of immediate issues that would necessitate a Support Visit are: the Client has moved and needs to learn new routes, the Client or dog has a significant health change, or the Client has a significant vision change. Clients are always encouraged to call the Instructors if they have questions. Addressing an issue right away is always the best practice.

Types of ACES visits:

Post Course ACES

  • After graduation, the Instructor will have a 2-3 week period available for conducting further visits at home with the graduated Client. The number of visits carried out depends on the Client’s needs. Since all classes will now be conducted from the Client’s home and in the home area some of these factors will be covered during Class while others will be addressed post graduation as time and competency allows.  The factors are:
    • To ensure and advise on correct application of care and welfare at home in such areas as grooming, feeding, and relief procedures.
    • To advise on specific applications of training such as straight line theory and near traffic reinforcement.
    • To ensure routes are covered in the safest possible way as regards to road crossing points.
    • To assist the Client covering routes at home so both dog and client make a correct and positive start.  Remember: If a person is used to long cane mobility, mobility with a Guide Dog can be disorienting due to the loss of contact with a large number of known landmarks.
    • To ensure security factors such as tending of yard and safe free running areas.
    • To communicate with other people in contact with the new Guide Dog and inform and instruct them as to their responsibilities.  These may be relatives and friends at home or work colleagues in the work place, and the local vet to explain the Guide Dogs of Texas protocols.
  • Experience with other Guide Dog Schools has shown that the Post Class ACES period is the most crucial time in determining the long term success of a Guide Dog team.
  • Monthly Report Forms
    • After graduation, the Client returns a form to Guide Dogs of Texas at the end of each month.  The Instructor may contact and discuss problems identified by the Client.  If necessary, a Priority Visit would be made.  Remember the Client may contact the Instructor at any time for advice over the phone.

Routine ACES

  • If possible, the first routine visit should be made three months after qualification and then on an annual basis after that.  Reasons for routine ACES visits are:
    • Responsibility of Guide Dogs of Texas to our dogs.  Visits ensure that standards of care and welfare are being maintained for the dog.
    • Responsibility of Guide Dogs of Texas to ongoing effective mobility of our Clients.  Visits will check all aspects of the dog’s work.  The Instructor may advise on any problems the dog is having, or on handling techniques to prevent development of problems in the future.

Priority ACES

  • In an emergency, an Instructor will provide a Support visit to a Client as soon as possible if there is an emergency situation such as:
    • A problem, that if not corrected immediately, may result in withdrawal of the dog.  Examples: aggression or severe suspicion.
    • Accident investigation.
    • Complaint from the public.
  • Refresher Training
    • If a problem has occurred that cannot be solved on an ACES visit, refresher training may be required.  This may involve:
      • The Guide Dog returning to the Instructor for refresher training and then returning the Guide Dog to the Client and completing the work at home.
      • Several days of training with the Client and Guide Dog together.