Best Practices before getting your own guide dog
There are lots of questions raised about guide dogs for the blind, but one of the more common is “How do people go about getting guide dogs for the blind?” If you or someone you know is visually impaired, you recognize the value that guide dogs for the blind provide for their human partner. Guide dogs for the blind are subject to intensive training in order to be efficient and reliable partners with their future handlers, and there is a step-by-step application process provided by the guide dogs for the blind organization which helps people take that first step towards independence through improved mobility.
Filling out an online application, dictating information using cassette tapes, typing or Braille on a paper to be mailed, using email or calling the Admissions department of the guide dogs for the blind program that you are interested in is the first step in the application process.
Next, the applicants need to present medical and other required documentation like an ophthalmologist’s report and the like. It is required by law that applicants pass a current TB or chest X-ray test since the guide dogs for the blind training is a residential training program.
Upon submission of the application form, representatives from the guide dogs organization will keep in touch by phone to conduct interviews and schedule a home visit. This step is to assess the environment as well as the mobility level of the blind recipient. They can also discuss some common travel routes, domestic concerns, social needs and even the type of guide dog preferred by the applicant. Queries and clarifications about the program are best asked and answered during this phase of the process.
After a thorough interview and assessment to see the applicant’s readiness and qualifications for the guide dogs for the blind training program, potential guide dog users will then undergo training with their new dog at the guide dogs for the blind training center. This requires an intensive 4-week training program to establish an effective guide dog and owner partnership.
At the start of the training, a partnership connection is not yet established between the guide dog and the blind owner, so the guide dogs for the blind instructor helps them to bond. He does this by connecting the leash to the dog with the handle held by the blind person.
Within the 4-week training period, guide dog clients are oriented and trained in practical skills which they can use in various environments such as their home, neighborhood workplace and in airports while traveling. As soon as respect and rapport develops in the guide dog team, the guide dog is ready to provide safety and mobility to their blind handlers since they are trained to follow their users as leaders. There is also a series of lectures to further enhance the new owner’s skills and confidence in guide dog handling.
To culminate the guide dogs for the blind training program, the instructor will accompany the client to his or her home and facilitate the transition from the center to the home setting. They will then familiarize themselves with important daily routines of the handler to help them coordinate with their new guide dog.
The blind handler can now enjoy their new-found sense of freedom and independence attained by working in partnership with a loving and well-trained companion for many years to come.