The GDB Class Experience
An overview of GDB's training program.
The curriculum at Guide Dogs for the Blind is designed to be practical and flexible in order to address the unique circumstances of each client. GDB provides a variety of learning options based upon your individual needs and goals during our two-week programs. Students enjoy the privacy of single rooms along with amenities such as libraries; music, exercise, and computer rooms; private telephones with voicemail; descriptive videos; and wireless internet access. The comfort of our student residence facilities, along with caring and professional staff, provide an atmosphere that is hospitable and conducive to learning.
A client support specialist, who also happens to be a guide dog handler, is available for consultation. Nursing staff provides routine health care, assists those with special medical needs, and handles any health emergencies. During your class training, a veterinarian will personally consult with you and discuss the medical history of your new guide dog.
Staying on Campus
Learn what life is like at GDB while training with your new guide dog.
Class training at GDB involves learning the specialized skills needed to successfully communicate, live, and work with a guide dog. The majority of instruction time during the two-week program will be spent on practical applications - effective handling, bonding with, caring for, and traveling with your carefully selected guide dog. A range of topics will be covered, including general dog care, dog learning theory, techniques for reinforcement, safe travel practices, customizing your guide dog’s training, and transferring this information to your home environment.
The learning process gets underway well before the class program begins, as many course materials are provided ahead of time. It is important to enter the class program with some understanding of the general concepts, making the practical experiences while you are here more effective and efficient.
Throughout the course, GDB instructional staff will teach, facilitate and support. You will actively participate in your own learning, including setting goals specific to your situation (health, orientation skills, lifestyle, etc.), and coming to discussions and meetings prepared. Successful completion of this course requires that you gain a comprehensive understanding of the material, and be prepared to:
- Complete all self-study assignments
- Attend lectures and discussions
- Demonstrate practical competency by actively participating in safe and effective travel with their guide dog
- Demonstrate a theoretical understanding by participating in group discussions, one-on-one discussions with instructional staff, and taking part in a review of course material via a multiple choice assessment
Upon completion of the class training, you should be able to:
- Develop a connected, working relationship with your guide dog
- Effectively communicate and direct your guide dog in a safe and productive manner
- Re-direct your dog’s focus towards desirable behavior
- Detect deviations in your line of travel
- Read traffic safely in a scenario comparable to your home area
- Suitably care for your dog’s needs, both physical (general care, grooming, basic medical care, etc.) and emotional (consistent/fair handling, playtime, companionship, etc.)
Course Materials and Supplies
GDB will provide you with the required course materials (available in a variety of accessible formats). All of your basic dog supplies (harness, leash, bedding, grooming equipment, etc.) will also be provided. Depending on the season and campus location, incoming clients should bring appropriate clothes and at least one pair of good walking shoes. Raingear is available to checkout during class, but for comfort and fit, if rain is anticipated bringing personal gear may be best.
All class lecture materials are available here on our website for you to access and study at any time.
These are an opportunity to meet with instructional staff ask questions about any aspects of class training that you may have. Instructional staff will cover a variety of topics and may ask questions related to your home environment, daily routine, and dog preferences.
Progress Report Meeting
This discussion occurs at the midway point of class training and reviews the class program thus far. Topics will include your feelings about the guide dog lifestyle, how the class is progressing, and specific goals for the second week.
Transition Plan Meeting
This meeting is another opportunity for a one-on-one discussion with instructor staff, and can include family members via conference call. Topics will include introducing your guide dog to family/coworkers, confinement/management techniques, developing appropriate schedules upon returning home, dog exercise and weight management, and teaching your home routes to your new guide.
When I met Ferdinand, he immediately flopped over on his back and put his paws up around my hand. And that was it—he had my heart.
The general daily schedule for the duration of the class program is listed below. It is designed to provide consistency in feeding, watering, and relieving a young dog, while introducing you to a basic understanding of your individual dog’s eating, drinking, and relieving habits. Times are not listed for each specific activity due to minor scheduling differences between campuses, as well as the inherent flexibility of the training program.
7:00 am: water, feed, and relieve your dog
8:15 am: relieve your dog, drive to training area, morning lesson(s)
11:30 am: water and relieve your dog
1:30 pm: relieve your dog, drive to training area, afternoon lesson(s)
RETURN TO CAMPUS
4:30 pm: water, feed, and relieve your dog
7:00 pm: water your dog
8:30 pm: relieve your dog