The decision of whether a dog will proceed to training is made after review of previous temperament reports and the In-For-Training test, an indicator of training aptitude.
The IFT test provides valuable information in a controlled setting about the dog’s temperament and ability to adapt to unfamiliar people, dogs, and environments. Only those dogs showing the self-confidence and composure necessary for guide work are assigned to undergo guide dog training. These dogs have shown enthusiasm and desire to undertake the tasks of working in harness. This is why Guiding Eyes says that each dog “chooses its own career.”
Shortly after IFT, our vets perform a thorough medical screening of each dog. Hip and elbows are evaluated for freedom from joint disease. Eyes, heart, and other body systems are also scrutinized. Health problems or dietary restrictions that present potential maintenance issues or risk shortening the career of the guide dog, are cause for release from guide dog training.
When is the dog I’m raising ready for IFT?
The date of the dog’s In-For-Training (IFT) will be determined by the pup’s readiness, progress, and some logistics such as the number and ages of other dogs, often littermates, needing to be scheduled.
You will receive a letter from the Canine Development Center about 3 to 4 weeks before the IFT date. At least 2 weeks prior to the IFT date, contact your Region Coordinator or region support team to make delivery plans, ask any questions, and discuss whether you would like to attend the IFT test.
Please Note: The dog’s IFT date is subject to change to meet a variety of Training Department needs.
Filling out your Final Evaluation
Once the IFT is scheduled, raisers fill out an electronic Final Evaluation form. The information provided will contribute to a smooth transition and optimal care for the dog.
The IFT Test Process
Dogs are normally delivered 4 days, if possible, before the IFT test day to give them time to adjust to kennel life and their kennel mates. The dog will go to the Training School Kennel in Yorktown Heights, NY, unless otherwise specified.
Many puppy raisers choose to bring their dogs in personally. If making a long trip requiring an overnight stay, raisers can check with the Regional Manager, as far in advance as possible, to determine if a space in our Patterson Guest House can be reserved. Drivers transporting multiple dogs normally receive first priority, and opportunities for guest house accommodations are limited. Raisers should plan ahead to avoid disappointment. The Regional Manager can also provide information about special discounts at hotels close to our facilities.
Vaccines: Prior to IFT, the dog’s vaccines must be up to date.
Food: Guiding Eyes advises transitioning the dog’s diet to the brand food used in our Training School Kennel before the IFT. Raisers should make sure to transition over a week or more to avoid intestinal upset.
Capstar®: A flea control product called Capstar© needs to be given, to assure that our kennel population is not exposed to fleas from the new arrivals. Capstar© can be given the same day as heartworm and flea preventive medication. It will be provided by the Region Coordinator or support team. Capstar® should be given between 4 and 20 hours before the dogs arrive at the kennel.
Dog Accessories: The following should be sent with the dog:
- Rabies tag
- Guiding Eyes tag
- Microchip tag on a flat buckle collar (tracking)
The tags will be stored in the dog’s records and placed back on when placement occurs. Guiding Eyes collars are recycled back to the Puppy Program for reuse.
Keep at home:
- Any special collars purchased
- Personal ID tag and town license
- Toys, dog beds, photo albums or other memorabilia. Raisers will have an opportunity to share these items at dog placement.
Return to the Region Team:
- The Guiding Eyes crate
- The Guiding Eyes puppy vest
- Any unused heartworm and flea preventive medications
- Any collars or training equipment provided by the Region Coordinator
IFT tests are held in Alumni Hall at our Training School, located at 611 Granite Springs Road in Yorktown Heights, NY.
All puppy raisers are welcome to attend an IFT test and watch from the back of the room, on the day the dog is tested.
Dogs may be scheduled for morning or afternoon sessions. Females in heat are tested at the end of the day.
How the Day Runs
Raisers are invited to a “welcome,” followed by a brief question and answer session before being escorted to the test area in Alumni Hall.
About the Test
Every dog is tested individually and each test takes 15 to 20 minutes. The dog will be exposed to various animated toys, noises, and objects. The dog will also wear a guide dog harness and experience a mock vet exam. The dog and handler will work both with and without food, assessing the dog’s biddability, obedience, acceptance of body handling, and reaction to unusual stimuli. Confidence, patience, and a willingness to work as a team are some of the characteristics essential for guide dog work.
The information derived from the IFT test is extremely important in determining the best career path for the dog. It also plays a crucial part in Guiding Eyes’ commitment to producing superb guide dogs.
Time with the Dog You Raised
After the dog’s test is complete, you will be able to visit with the dog outside of the testing room. A staff person will be present to answer any questions you may have on the dog’s performance. This is a great opportunity for you to take photographs.
Raisers are invited to attend a tour of the kennel facility during their IFT visit. The kennel tour provides the opportunity to see where the dog will be spending the next few months of his or her life. Tours are conducted between the morning and afternoon sessions.
Results of IFT
Raisers who cannot be present for IFT will receive the results from their Region Coordinator for the dog they raised. IFT results for littermates or other dogs on program will not be shared. There are five possible outcomes from the IFT test.
- Training: The dog passed the IFT screening test and will stay at the Training School. Medical screening and assignment to an instructor will occur over the next few weeks.
- Breeder Evaluation: Exceptional qualities were identified, and the dog will stay at the Canine Development Center Breeding Kennel for medical screening and further temperament evaluations.
- Further Evaluation: Additional temperament evaluations will be done to determine the best career path for the dog. The Regional Manager will be in touch as soon as more information is available.
- Release/Alternate Career: It has been determined that the dog’s temperament or health make it better suited for an alternative career such as detection work or as a cherished family pet (see Adoption)
A complimentary disc of the IFT test will be sent to raisers within one month after the test date.
Please Note: this DVD is the Property of Guiding Eyes for the Blind and is intended for personal viewing only. It cannot be displayed on any public websites or social media, or distributed without the written permission of Guiding Eyes.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for questions about the IFT DVD. We are grateful to our volunteers for their assistance in making these DVDs possible.