About Our Dogs
We love dogs, and we’re passionate about their health and well-being. Each one of our dogs has the potential to change someone’s life and open up a new world of possibilities.
We use Labrador retrievers and German shepherds that are bred to meet the very specific health and temperament required of guide dogs.
Though some people might confuse their distinctive coloring with that of a Rottweiler, our beautiful black and tan dogs are actually Labradors. The color is due to a recessive gene that causes the pup to have lighter tan colored fur above the eyes, around the muzzle, and on the chest and legs.
Another gene found in Labradors causes tan speckling on the legs and muzzle; this is called brindle.
Black and tan and brindle Labradors can be registered with the American Kennel Club, but they cannot compete in the show ring as these colors are considered undesirable to the breed standard.
The Guiding Eyes breeding colony has been derived in part from the Whygin Labs, a prominent kennel that was very successful with show and hunting dogs in the 1970s. Some of the black and tan coloring stems from the Whygin line.
Because we breed for optimum guide dogs, our primary criteria are temperament and health, not color. We are looking for confident, easy-to-handle dogs with excellent health and a sturdy conformation – dogs that will give their partners the freedom to achieve their goals.
Black, chocolate, and yellow Labrador coloring are the result of the interaction of two genes commonly referred to as the E (yellow) gene and the B (brown) gene.
A dog with ee (two recessive copies of the yellow gene) is yellow. The B gene is turned off. This turning off or hiding the expression of another gene is called epistasis.
For dogs with Ee or EE, the B gene is turned on. A black dog results from BB or Bb. A chocolate dog results from bb.
Another gene present in all Labs is the K gene, which has several variations. KB is responsible for solid coloring, as we see in nearly all Labradors. The most recessive version of K is ky; two copies of ky will allow another gene, A (agouti,) to express itself in a number of patterns commonly seen in other breeds, such as tan points.
A single copy of KB is epistatic to, or sufficient to hide, all the genetic information of the A gene. Nearly every Labrador retriever has two copies of KB. In a small sampling of 200 random Labradors, about 4% were found to have only a single copy of KB.
When two such dogs are bred to one another, the probability is that 25% of the pups will inherit the non-KB version from each parent. Any of these dogs that are not yellow (ee) will have tan points.
About Guide Dogs
Nothing … and $50,000.
We always provide our dogs free of charge to people who can benefit from their partnership. This includes training, transportation to and from the school, room and board during the training program, and a lifetime of follow-up services.
We estimate the cost to breed, raise, train, and match a Guiding Eyes dog with a person with vision loss to be approximately $50,000.
The vast majority of our funding comes from the voluntary contributions of friends and supporters, who value the work we do to support blind men and women across the country and around the world. We work hard to put every charitable donation we receive to work directly for the students we serve.
Contrary to common belief, guide dogs do not know how to read and understand traffic signals. A person who is blind or visually impaired determines when it is safe to cross the street by listening to the sounds of parallel traffic. When the handler decides that it is safe to cross, he or she will give the dog the command, “forward,” in order to move out into the street.
The dogs are taught “intelligent disobedience,” and if there is an obstruction in the street or an oncoming vehicle that poses a danger, the dog will choose not to listen to the “forward” command. The dog is able to keep the handler safe even if the handler makes an error or if a driver runs a red light.
It takes a very specific dog to be successful as a guide. A guide must be confident in all environments and situations, have the ability to problem-solve and make decisions on his own, have a low distraction level, have impeccable house and social manners, and be able to remain settled for several hours at a time when needed.
A long history of genetic research has shown us that we have a greater chance at producing guide dogs if we breed specifically for temperament and health scores.
We remain devoted to all of our dogs throughout their lifetimes; no Guiding Eyes dog will ever add to the shelter population.
A guide dog is responsible for keeping its handler safe while out in the world, and it is very important not to break the dog’s focus. For a handler who is blind or visually impaired, distracting his or her guide dog is the equivalent of the passenger of a car grabbing the wheel out of a driver’s hand. Never pet a working guide dog.
Technically, no. “Seeing Eye Dog” is a phrase copyrighted by The Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ, another organization that offers service dogs to people who are blind or visually impaired. Dogs bred and trained at Guiding Eyes are referred to as guide dogs, dog guides, or Guiding Eyes dogs.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides public access for guide and service dogs and dogs training with professional. You can view a summary of ADA laws here.
Self-control is an important skill for a guide dog. If you see a working guide dog or a puppy with its raiser while out with your pet dog, it is important to keep your distance. Ultimately our dogs will be wholly responsible for someone’s safety; it’s important for them to remain focused on their handlers at all times.
And don’t worry – they have plenty of time to play when they’re not working!
Raising a Puppy
A Puppy Raiser takes a puppy into his or her home and teaches basic obedience and house manners and socializes the pup to everything the world has to offer. Once the puppy is old enough, he or she is assessed for entry into our school and begins the formal training to become a guide dog.
Puppy raising is a volunteer position and raisers are required to attend weekly puppy classes. At the end of the 14 to 16 months, the dog returns to Guiding Eyes for formal training with a professional guide dog instructor.
Learn more about puppy raising here.
Raisers are certainly sad to say goodbye to their dogs, but they’re also excited to watch the dogs progress through the next stages in their journeys.
Raising a Guiding Eyes puppy is a very rewarding experience; watching the dog succeed and change someone’s life makes the difficult times worthwhile.