Jul 21, 2017
Judy Reilly
Guide Dogs of America

Guide Dogs of America (GDA) has been offering guide dog mobility services, free of charge, to qualified blind and visually impaired individuals, since 1948. GDA breeds, raises and trains Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds to be partnered with blind men and women living in the United States and Canada.

Guide Dogs of America is strongly committed to providing a training program designed for the abilities and needs of the individual. Class size is limited to a maximum of ten students assigned to 3 instructors, a small student to instructor ratio that allows for greater flexibility and specialized teaching. The training period for first-time students is 28 days, and for re-trainees, 21 days. In addition to residency training, GDA also conducts in-home training on a limited basis to select handlers. Approximately 50 teams graduate through our program each year.

Guide Dogs of America looks forward to working with people who are willing to work hard, and who have demonstrated that they can physically control and benefit from the use of a guide dog. Prior to acceptance to the GDA program, each applicant receives extensive counseling in the use and responsibilities of having a guide dog. Our assessment goal is to ensure that each accepted applicant will have a strong understanding of the leadership role necessary for the continued development of the human/guide dog relationship.

All dogs issued at Guide Dogs of America must complete a rigorous testing procedure and meet a stringent set of health and working standards. In addition, prior to final qualification, each State Licensed Instructor who has worked with that dog must give his or her approval. The dogs are generally between 22 and 24 months of age when matched with a student.

Our objective is not only to provide excellent guide dogs and quality instruction, but also to strive to maintain the true success of a team – longevity. Lifetime support services are provided for each graduated team, with an emphasis on immediate post follow-up after graduation for those with less experience or for those with difficult, unusual home areas. Veterinary services are generally provided free of charge to those who can bring their dog to the GDA campus. Boarding services are available as well. Graduates are given ownership of their guide dogs upon successful completion of the course.

Our dormitory features private rooms, individual dog relieving areas, exercise equipment and lounge, snack and game rooms. Round trip transportation is provided for those who request it. Because Guide Dogs of America is located in Southern California, students will experience very comfortable weather conditions throughout most of the year.