Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to the most-asked questions about Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Q: What is the best way to describe Guide Dogs for the Blind?
Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) is more than an industry-leading guide dog school. At GDB, we believe that everyone deserves to move through the world safely and confidently—to live the life they want to live. Our passionate community employs innovative practices to create life-changing partnerships. And, we advocate for the policy reforms that change how the world views blindness and disability. Because when everyone is empowered to participate, our communities are stronger.
With world-class client services and a robust network of instructors, puppy raisers, donors, and volunteers, we prepare highly qualified guide dogs, provide guide dog readiness skills, and offer youth programs to empower individuals who are blind or visually impaired. GDB not only improves mobility for our clients, we further inclusion.
As the largest guide dog school in North America, more than 16,000 guide dog teams have graduated from GDB from across the U.S. and Canada since our founding in 1942. All of the services are provided free of charge, including personalized training and extensive post-graduation support, plus financial assistance for veterinary care, if needed. Our work is made possible by the generous support of our donors and volunteers; we receive no government funding.
Q: Where is Guide Dogs for the Blind located?
Guide Dogs for the Blind has two campuses: one is headquartered in San Rafael, California — 20 miles north of San Francisco, another in Boring, Oregon — 25 miles east of Portland.
Q: Who does Guide Dogs for the Blind serve?
Any person who is blind or visually impaired living in the United States or Canada desiring enhanced mobility, independence, community, and inclusion. Our guide dog clients need to have good orientation & mobility (O&M) skills, be able to travel independently, and well-suited to work with a dog. Our Orientation and Mobility Immersion program is suited for people who are interested in improving their independent travel skills and guide dog readiness. And our K9 Buddy program matches both children and adults who are blind or visually impaired with specially selected dogs to be their pets and companions. All of our services are provided completely free of charge.
Q: Where does Guide Dogs for the Blind receive its funding?
GDB is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization supported entirely by private donations. We receive no government funding. Donors contribute through general contributions, bequests, grants, memorial and honor donations, charitable remainder trusts, and other planned giving options. View our Financials.
Q: How many guide dog teams have graduated from Guide Dogs for the Blind?
More than 16,000 teams have graduated since our founding in 1942, and there are approximately 2,000 active guide dog teams currently in the field across North America.
Q: What does Guide Dogs for the Blind do differently than other schools?
Guide Dogs for the Blind is recognized worldwide as a model for innovative training, unprecedented ongoing support for our clients, and the success rate of our guide dog clients. We also have a world-class alumni association, and are one of the only guide dog schools in the world that provides veterinary financial assistance, as needed, for our guide dog and K9 Buddy clients There is no other guide dog school in the country that offers the level of training and the degree of hands-on support for our clients than we do.
Q: Do you train other types of service dogs?
We only provide highly trained guide dogs and are focused exclusively on working with people with vision loss. We do consult with, and donate, selected career change dogs to a number of other service organizations.
Q: What breeds does Guide Dogs for the Blind use?
Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) currently uses yellow and black Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Lab/Golden crosses (as is common throughout the world). In the past GDB used other breeds but found these the most suitable due to health, temperament, size, coat type, and adaptability.
Q: Why does Guide Dogs for the Blind breed their own dogs and why don't they use shelter dogs?
In the past, GDB attempted to source dogs from local shelter and animal rescue organizations. We did this for several years and it was met with very minimal success. Many dogs did not qualify from the get go because they must be free from orthopedic issues and eye disease. It also took an enormous amount of manpower for our staff to find appropriate canine candidates. Many of the few dogs who did pass the basic health screen did not have the level of confidence for work in the environments that a guide dog travels. The temperamental traits that cause a guide dog to be suitable (high confidence, high manageability, low distraction, biddable, adaptable, friendly) are not always found in dogs at a shelter or rescue organization (especially given the unknown factor of their background and what they might have been exposed to). We also rely greatly on the time and dedication that our volunteer puppy raisers put in to ensure that our dogs are well-socialized and well-behaved early on in their lives.
Q: Why doesn’t Guide Dogs for the Blind actively breed for chocolate Labs?
While most Labradors from GDB are either black or yellow, GDB does have dogs in our breeding colony that carry the gene for chocolate, and occasionally chocolate puppies are born. Chocolate puppies follow the same raising and training process as all other puppies and have the same opportunity to become successful working guides or breeders. To put it simply, the genes that determine if a puppy will be chocolate are recessive, which means both parents must have the gene to have a chance to produce chocolate offspring. Because GDB focuses primarily on choosing parents who will have puppies with the highest temperament and health qualities to succeed as working guides, GDB does not deliberately match up parents who carry the chocolate gene. On occasions where mate selection factors indicate that an ideal match would be between two parents carrying for the chocolate color there is still no guarantee that any puppies born will be chocolate, which is why it is so rare in the GDB population. For anyone wanting more information about coat color genetics you can visit the breeding department’s favorite and informative website: Dog Coat Color Genetics
Q: Do you have to be totally blind to use a guide dog?
No. Many of our clients do have some useable vision. 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?
Because it takes a level of maturity, discipline, and commitment to work with a guide dog, the majority of our guide dog clients are 18 and older, but there is no age requirement.
Q: How long are Guide Dogs for the Blind's guide dog program classes?
Our guide dog training classes are two weeks long, minimizing disruption to our client's personal and professional commitments. We provide highly customized instruction; classes generally have 4-6 clients and the ratio of clients to instructors is 2:1. GDB also provides our clients with a lifetime of support.
Q: What is Guide Dogs for the Blind's volunteer community like?
Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) has one of the nation’s largest and most diverse volunteer networks with thousands of volunteers assisting in the success of our mission.
Q: How can I support Guide Dogs for the Blind?
There are a lot of ways to support Guide Dogs for the Blind. You can volunteer on a GDB campus, raise a guide dog puppy, become a breeding stock custodian, provide foster care for our dogs, donate funds and services, or fundraise in your community. You can also introduce us to your friends, follow us on our social media channels, and if you know someone who is blind or visually impaired, please be sure to tell them about our program and free services.
Q: How does Guide Dogs for the Blind's Puppy Raising program work?
Our Puppy Raising program is made up of more than 2,000 puppy raising volunteer families in the following states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington. Puppy raisers receive a guide dog puppy when the pup is approximately 8 weeks old, and the pup will return to one of our campuses for formal training between 15 and 17 months old. Puppy raisers are responsible for teaching the puppies good manners and basic obedience.
Q: What costs are covered for Guide Dogs for the Blind's Puppy Raising program?
GDB provides equipment, dog transportation, training, support, and basic veterinary care.
Q: Is it okay to pet or talk to a working guide dog?
Please never pet or talk to a guide dog. It's an essential courtesy to first ask for permission from the handler before petting a guide dog.
Q: Are guide dogs allowed to go everywhere a person can go?
Yes. Laws in the U.S. and Canada, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a person with a guide dog is allowed access to all places of public accommodation, including restaurants, office buildings, schools, public transportation, ride share vehicles, and more.
Q: What should drivers do when they see a guide dog in training or a person using a guide dog?
We encourage drivers to be attentive, as you would with any other pedestrians, especially when turning right-on-red. Guide Dogs for the Blind trains our 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: What is Guide Dogs for the Blind's position on fraudulent service dogs?
Guide Dogs for the Blind does not agree with, nor does it support the training or use of fraudulent service dogs. Personal testimonies from many of our clients demonstrate that fraudulent service dogs pose a variety of challenges for people with disabilities who travel with properly trained service dogs. Some of these challenges include safety, health, and dog attack risks, as well as the erosion of the positive image of a formally trained service dog in the eyes of business owners and the public. Fraudulent service dogs pose a fundamental threat to the access, independence, and mobility that service dogs enable.
Guide Dogs for the Blind is aware of the hazards and complications fraudulent service dogs pose to an officially designated working dog. A “fraudulent service dog,” is any dog that is not formally trained to perform a specific service to assist a person with a disability. The three major laws that give access to a service dog and a person with a disability are the Americans with Disabilities Act; Fair Housing Act; and The Air Carrier Access Act. There is a lack of consistency between these major pieces of legislation, which provides incentives for people to train and use fraudulent service dogs. There is no established federal or state administrative body to set and enforce rules pertaining to service dog regulations.
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. Your dog should also be on leash and under control. Guide dogs are also not trained to be protection dogs - they are busy safely guiding their partners when out in public.
Q: What unique skills does a guide dog have?
Leading a person in a straight line from point A to point B, stopping for all changes in elevation (including curbs and stairs), stopping for overhead obstacles (such as tree limbs), and avoiding obstacles in their path.
Q: What are some things guide dogs cannot do?
Read traffic signals and determine the route to a new destination.
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.