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Journey of a Guide Dog

Our pups get their start at the Canine Development Center in Patterson, New York. At our Headquarters & Training Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, their journey continues as they learn to become a world-class Guiding Eyes guide dog.

How do adorable puppies become Guiding Eyes dogs?
3 pups line up sleeping as 4th props head on last one facing towards them

Breeding & Genetics

Guiding Eyes is an international leader in breeding and genetics, with a program built upon best in class analysis of genetic data. Guiding Eyes chronicles millions of data points from every step of a dog’s life.  Why? Because while Mother Nature often knows best, science can often help us know better. With the right information, we can make better breeding decisions to keep our colony growing and healthy for years to come.

tiny pup massage paws up


Our Socialization programs are crucial in helping puppies get the right start on the long path to becoming guide dogs. A pup’s socialization experiences boost confidence and help develop simple, yet important, skills. In the Early Training & Socialization Program, on campus socializers introduce our youngest puppies to gentle massage, as well as new sounds and surfaces. Home Socializers give our puppies one-on-one attention while introducing them to new sights and sounds in a home environment.

Black Lab in Future Guide Dog vest steps into photo in garden area

Pups on Program

Our team of volunteer puppy raisers bring puppies into their homes, providing hours of patient teaching of basic skills, and numerous socialization journeys over a 12-to-16-month period. Their care and guidance cultivates the confidence future guide dogs need as they prepare for a life changing partnership with an individual with vision loss. Our puppy raisers find this experience life-changing for them, as well.

At IFT staff looks down at black Lab while offering guide dog harness


The next step is assessment through a standard test called an IFT. Only dogs showing the self-confidence and composure necessary for guide work are assigned to begin guide dog training. These dogs have shown enthusiasm and desire to undertake the tasks of working in harness. Some dogs with exceptional qualities undergo additional testing to determine if they will join our elite Breeding Colony, so that they might pass on these desirable traits.

GDMI and yellow guide dog in training walk over railroad pedestrian crossing

Harness Training

Dogs are assigned to a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor (GDMI) who will develop a relationship with the dog through play, obedience, and general time together. Training is a continuous process of teaching concepts in small steps and building upon lessons with repetitions in a variety of situations. A guide dog in training is ready for placement with a person with vision loss when the dog responds reliably and safely to all work situations.

Young male graduate sits on subway with German Shepherd guide in front of him

Matching & Team Training

Guiding Eyes is known for our ability to find the right dog for each person. Our training staff takes great care in matching our students with their guide dogs, taking into consideration walking pace, harness pull, lifestyle, personality, and more.

A Guiding Eyes guide dog helps individuals with vision loss gain the independence, confidence and freedom needed to experience all of life’s adventures.

Man in business suit stops at sidewalk curb and rewards black lab guide dog

Graduation & Beyond

Graduation is the culmination of training for our guide dog teams. When a Guiding Eyes graduate leaves campus and returns home with their new guide dog, it may be the end of class, but it is only the beginning of their life together. We provide each team with extraordinary support and follow-up assistance. Guiding Eyes is committed to caring for our guide dogs throughout their lives.

Jackson's video journey from puppy to guide dog

For an additional view of a pup’s journey, visit our April 2023 blog post featuring a narrated educational video.

The Journey At A Glance

We are committed to caring for our dogs from the moment of their birth throughout their lives.

  • Birth: Puppies are born at the Canine Development Center in Patterson, New York.
  • Birth to 8 Weeks: Puppies receive early training and socialization.
  • 8 Weeks to 16 Months: Puppies learn key skills from volunteer puppy raisers.
  • 16 Months to 22 Months: Dogs join Guide Dog Mobility Instructors in Yorktown Heights, New York to learn guide work.
  • 22 Months to 8-10 Years: Dogs are matched and live with people who are blind as guides until retirement.
Journey Birth, up to 8 wks, up to 16mths, up to 22mths and retirement 8-10 years