FAQs About Guide Dogs
What does a Guide Dog do?
A Guide Dog is trained to guide a client in a given direction unless told otherwise, avoiding obstacles on the route. It will stop at kerbs and steps, find doors, crossings and places which are visited regularly and it will guide the client across the road but it is up to you to decide where and when to cross safely.
The Guide Dog and client are a partnership, with the client giving commands and encouragement and telling the dog which way to go. The dog is not infallible but for some people it can offer a unique, safe and effective way of getting about independently.
Can anyone be trained with a Guide Dog?
If you have a significant vision impairment that makes safe independent travel difficult, you are over 16 years of age and a resident in Queensland, you can be considered for a Guide Dog. Not everyone is suited to working with a Guide Dog and there are many factors that have to be taken into account.
What types of dogs are used?
We mainly use Labradors, Golden Retrievers and crosses of these two breeds. We occasionally have a small number of other breeds that we use less frequently. Different breeds of dog have different characteristics. We understand you may have a preference for a specific breed or type of dog. However, your mobility requirements, environment and physical ability will determine the most appropriate type of dog for you.
How does the dog know where it is going?
The Guide Dog will learn routes over a period of time. However, it is a partnership and the client needs to have knowledge of their environment in order to support the dog and tell it which way to go. You need to remember that the dog left to its own devices may choose the route to the park every time, so it is important that you are in charge of navigation!
Also, the decision to cross a road is made by the owner who decides where and when it is safe to cross, a Guide Dog helps ensure that crossing is completed safely.
Where are Guide Dogs allowed to go?
A Guide Dog, and a Guide Dog-in-training, have the legal right to enter public places including shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs and clubs and travel on all public transport and taxis. Their rights are protected by legislation, including the Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dogs Act 2009 and the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991.
Does a Guide Dog ever act like an ordinary dog?
Yes. The Guide Dog is taught it is on duty when in harness. When out of harness, it behaves just like any family dog.
Can a Guide Dog be patted?
When a Guide Dog is in harness it is working and needs to concentrate on leading the vision impaired person around safely. If the situation allows, the person may be able to take the harness off, signalling to the dog that it is okay to play and be patted. It’s also important to remember never to feed or distract a Guide Dog when it is working.
What happens to dogs that are unsuitable to train as Guide Dogs?
If they do not make it through our Guide Dog training, they may be assessed for other careers such as with Corrective Services, or become one of our Guide Dogs-in-training (Public Relations). We also accept applications from community members interested in purchasing our rehomed dogs.
How long does it take to train a Guide Dog?
The whole process from birth to harness takes about two years. Each dog spends 12 to 15 months in the Puppy Development Program being raised by a volunteer Puppy Raiser, learning basic obedience and socialisation skills. This is followed by 20 weeks of intensive training with a Guide Dog Trainer where the dog learns all the skills it needs to be a guide for a blind or vision impaired user.
The dog is then handed over to a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor who identifies a suitable client from our waiting list who is blind or has low vision, based on the client’s lifestyle needs. The instructor works with the Guide Dog and its new handler to ensure they can travel together safely and independently. This ‘team’ training takes about three weeks followed by more training in the home environment. Learn more about being a Puppy Raiser here.
Where do we source Guide Dogs?
Guide Dogs Queensland has its own breeding colony, breeds between 80-120 pups each year. We also source bloodlines and frozen straws from Stud Dogs from renowned Guide Dog schools in Australia and around the world.
What is the average working life of a Guide Dog?
Guide Dogs usually begin work with their handler at about 20 months old, with a well-earned retirement about 8 to 10 years later. Upon retirement, a Guide Dog can remain with the client as a pet or live with a family member. If these options are not available, Guide Dogs Queensland finds a loving and suitable home through its Guide Dog re-homing program – you can register your interest via the Withdrawn Guide Dogs page.
When did the Guide Dog movement start in Australia?
It was established in Perth in 1951 by volunteers, with the support of Apex Australia. There are now independent Guide Dog organisations providing services in all states and territories, and all affiliated under the Guide Dogs Australia banner. Guide Dogs Queensland was formed in 1960 and incorporated in 1965. Services originally started in Queensland under the umbrella of the Royal Guide Dogs Association of Australia.
Does Guide Dogs QLD charge for services and equipment?
No, all services are provided free of charge to all Queenslanders who are blind and vision impaired.
Does Guide Dogs QLD receive any government funding?
Yes, but very limited. Guide Dogs Queensland relies on the generosity of communities and corporate sponsors to provide over 90% of the funding we need to deliver our services every year. We receive less than 10% in government funding.
Do you keep all of the Guide Dog puppies you breed?
Guide Dogs Queensland breeds dogs specifically to meet the number of Guide Dogs we need each year, and to ensure they are temperamentally and physically suitable. We use breeding dogs sourced from accredited Guide Dog schools both in Australia and overseas. This also means that sometimes we will select certain puppies to purchase from overseas, to sell to other Guide Dog breeding colonies, or to exchange with other Guide Dog Schools. This ensures that we have access to a high quality, suitably diversified genetic pool and assists other Guide Dog schools to do the same, however, this represents only a small percentage of the total number of Dogs at Guide Dogs Queensland.
FAQs About Breeding Dog Carers
What does the role of a Breeding Dog Carer involve?
The role is in place to provide our Broods and Stud Dogs with a permanent family that can monitor their health, welfare and liaise with GDQ staff about their dog. The focus of the program is on the fitness, correct weight and condition of the dog, so that it is in optimum condition for breeding when the time comes. Our Breeding dogs enjoy a loving family life, along with the benefits of being associated with the Guide Dog Program. Having a GDQ Breeding dog is a long term commitment, for the duration of the dogs breeding career and beyond, should the home decide to adopt the dog when it retires from breeding duties.
How long does the dog stay with the Breeding Dog Carer?
GDQ Broods are retired between 7 to 8 years of age. Stud Dogs retire at approximately 10 years of age or when their fertility begins to decline. Carers are given first option of adopting the dogs as a pet when they are retired.
How often is a Brood or Stud Dog used in the Breeding Program?
Broods return to the Guide Dog Centre when they come into season which happens approximately twice a year (every 6-9 months). Broods usually have their first litter of pups at approximately two years of age and one litter every twelve to eighteen months thereafter, assuming her good health, conditions and the programs needs. All puppies are born and reared at the centre’s purpose built Breeding Cente. Stud dogs begin breeding at around 12 to 18 months of age. They will come to the centre for natural matings and other breeding matters (regular health checks or semen collection etc). How often the stud dog will be used depends on GDQ’s needs and the success rate of the stud.
Can I visit my breeding dog when they are breeding at GDQ?
Once a Brood delivers her litter in our Breeding Centre, and has settled into her maternal duties, you are welcome to visit her and her bundle of pups. Staff are able to advise on suitable timing for visitation with your dog. We encourage carers and their family to visit and to help GDQ staff socialise the litter. Your Brood will be very proud to show you how clever she has been! Stud Dogs are often only visiting the centre for a few days, so visitation is usually not necessary during this time.
What type of food does the dog need and who pays for the food?
Our dogs are fed a raw food diet which is supplied by Guide Dogs Queensland. GDQ staff will advise you on monitoring and maintaining correct weight and condition for your dog.
Who pays for veterinary costs?
Guide Dogs Queensland will cover all veterinary expenses associated with the dog while it is on our program. GDQ Breeding Dogs attend a specialist veterinary clinic based in Stafford Heights, Brisbane. After consulting with the Breeding Manager about a health concern you have, you will be advised on the appropriate course of action.
Who provides preventative medication?
Guide Dogs Queensland will provide preventative medications (vaccinations, heartworm, flea control, worming etc) for the dog while it is on our program.
What happens if I go on holiday?
Your Breeding Dog will return to GDQ and we will either board the dog in our facilities under the supervision of our trained staff, or we may find an appropriate boarding home for the dog from our capable group of listed boarding homes.
What kind of support do Breeding Dog Carers receive?
The Breeding Program staff keep in close contact with all Breeding Dog Carers and regular visits are made. A Breeding Dog Carers manual (which covers all aspects of your dogs’ health, breeding matters and social behaviour) will be provided as a reference. We are only a phone call away if help is needed.
FAQs About Enablement Dogs
What makes a dog best suited to be an Enablement Dog?
Like humans, no two personalities in dogs are the same. Each dog is unique and we strive to find the best roles for each of our dogs so they lead a happy and rewarding life. Our Enablement Dogs are highly trained and obedient dogs that are typically more sociable and enjoy interaction with family members.
How much does an Enablement Dog cost?
Families work with Guide Dogs to help cover the cost of these dogs.