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Guide Dogs 101

Are you a prospective student, potential supporter or volunteer, or just curious to expand your knowledge of our exceptional Guiding Eyes dogs? Maybe you’re welcoming a new guide dog team to your community? Learning more about guide dogs can help ensure that new teams can safely continue their work together. Need more help? Contact us at (800) 942-0149.

Expand your guide dog knowledge

Interacting with a Guide Dog Team

Don’t distract a working dog.

When a guide dog is in harness, they need to remain focused on working, devoting their attention to guiding their handler. Never pet a working dog, as this can distract them from their very important work.

Always ask.

Even when the dog is out of harness and not actually guiding, the handler is responsible for their behavior to ensure they are well-mannered. Always ask for permission before interacting with the dog, so that the handler can maintain control.

No people food.

Guide dog handlers are responsible for maintaining proper health and nutrition standards for their dogs.  Don’t give the dog any special treatment that the dog’s owner would not want to continue. Offering food can interfere with the owner’s efforts to maintain good behavior patterns.

Keep your pet on his leash.

Guide dogs get to relax and play when they are at home. When you see a guide dog working, make sure to keep your pets at a distance, allowing the guide dog to focus.

Help spot service dog fraud.

It’s important to know the difference between a working dog and a pet. Guide dog teams are specially trained to maintain behavior that is appropriate for public access. The ability to travel freely in public space is a privilege that is earned and protected by law.  Emotional support animals are not service dogs as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Like pets, these dogs do not have formal public access training and can put working guide dog teams in danger due to inappropriate interactions and behaviors. 

Working with a Guide Dog Team – Five Tips for Friends and Family

Guide Dog FAQs

How much does a guide dog cost?

Guiding Eyes always provides 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.


It can cost up to $50,000 annually to train and care for a guide dog throughout its working lifetime with a person who is blind. The vast majority of Guiding Eyes for the Blind’s funding comes from the voluntary contributions of friends and supporters.

How does a guide dog know when to cross the street?

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.

Why don’t guide dog schools use rescue dogs?

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 their 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.

Can I pet a guide dog I see working?

Please don’t. 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 steering wheel out of a driver’s hand. Never pet a working guide dog.

Is that a Seeing Eye dog?

Technically, no. “Seeing Eye Dog” is a phrase copyrighted by The Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey, which is a different 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.

Are guide dogs allowed everywhere?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides public access for guide and service dogs and dogs training with professionals. You can view a summary of ADA laws here.

My dog is friendly. Can he say Hi?

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!

How can I assist a person with a guide dog?

Sometimes, if a person doesn’t know how to get to his or her destination, your offer to help may be welcome. Before assisting a guide dog user, be sure to ask, “May I help you?” Allow the person you’re helping to tell you what they need. Remember that grabbing the guide dog, the leash, harness or the person’s arm may confuse them, and could even place the guide dog team in danger. Should the blind person accept your offer, the accepted practice is to offer your left elbow for the person to hold with their right hand.

How many people use guide dogs?

Although there are no precise numbers available, it is estimated that there are approximately 10,000 guide dog teams currently working in the United States. Another frequently cited statistic is that only about 2% of all people who are blind and visually impaired work with guide dogs. Guiding Eyes is committed to raising awareness about guide dogs and the profound differences they can make in people’s lives.

How is having a guide dog different from having a cane?

The method by which a blind or visually impaired person travels is a matter of personal choice. Those who choose to work with a guide dog often discover a new sense of freedom, an increased level of confidence, and a feeling of safety, along with the warm companionship of their new canine friend.