A: Labradors and Golden Retrievers (and first-crosses) are our dogs of choice because they are highly trainable, responsive, intelligent and have calm temperaments.
A: The average working life for a Guide Dog is 8 years. Retired Guide Dogs may be kept as pets, given to a friend or relative as a pet, or returned to us. We will contact the original puppy-raising family to see if they want the dog back, but if not, we have a long waiting list of loving families who want to adopt retired dogs.
A: All of our dogs assist someone in need. Generally 65% become guide dogs, and the rest are offered to families with Special Needs. We have given dogs to blind children, autistic children, people in wheel-chairs, soldiers suffereing from PTSD, blind or deaf adults, people who have seizures, etc. These are not trained therapy dogs - just four-legged best friends and companions.
A: There is no difference.
A: In 2011, we produced 80 puppies.
A: Approximately 75-100 pups.
A: Each litter is assigned a different letter of the alphabet, and the dogs are given English names. This is to avoid confusion so the dog will not hear its name called out by accident while working.
A: We provide a Guide Dog to the visually impaired for free and “with no strings attached.” We feel strongly that our clients should not feel obligated to provide photographs and updates.
A: We breed our own puppies from a set of parents who are carefully screened for trainability, health, and temperament. Occasionally, we will accept puppies from breeders or other Guide Dog schools whose dogs conform to our rigorous health requirements. Good genes are critical to a successful breeding program. We produce Labradors and Golden retrievers as well as a first cross. Occasionally, we provide German Shepherds if a student requests it, and we have provided Standard Poodles to students who are allergic to long-hair dogs.
A: After satisfactorily completing our training course, the graduate receives ownership of their Guide Dog. They also must accept responsibility for the care and maintenance of the Guide Dog after graduation.
A: The center was established in January of 1991, just prior to the Gulf War with Tillie, a Yellow Lab from England. Our first graduate was Haim Tsur, a concert violinist from Jerusalem who graduated in June of that year.
A: There are 27,000 legally blind Israelis, according to government records. Currently, there are approximately 250 working Guide Dog “Partnerships.” You can see why the demand for our services is so high, and why we have such a long waiting list.
A: Prior to opening our center, visually impaired Israelis had to go Jerusalem to take an English test. If they passed, they could come to America for a dog. However, the dogs were trained in English and were not accustomed to the heat or the unique traffic obstacles in Israel. In addition, follow-up training is extremely helpful if a dog develops lazy habits, so having highly trained instructors just a couple of hours away is critical.
A: 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.
A: The greatest difficulty Guide Dog users encounter is public interference. For anyone to take hold of the blind person’s arm or the dog’s harness, or otherwise distract either the dog or its owner, is like grabbing the steering wheel of a car away from its driver. If you think that a Guide Dog user needs assistance, calmly ask if he or she would like help. The person can then accept or decline your offer.
A: In Israel, Guide Dogs are allowed to travel free on buses, trains, taxis and in the passenger section of aircraft. Guide Dogs are also allowed to enter any public place including restaurants, theaters and hotels. It is an offense to refuse entry to a person accompanied by a Guide Dog.
A: The general rule is that working Guide Dogs should be ignored. Distractions take their concentration away from the work they have to do—which can put the dog and its teammate in jeopardy. Click here to learn about etiquette when interacting with someone who is blind.
A: Guide Dogs are educated in the same way as many pets, with lots of repetition and positive reinforcement. For the first year of their lives they grow up in homes with volunteer puppy raisers where they learn left from right and right from wrong. The raisers also teach them basic obedience and socialization while giving lots of love. When it’s about 16 months old, the dog returns to our center and begins a four-month course of formal harness training with a Mobility Instructor. During this time, they learn Guide Dog skills, such as finding sidewalks and avoiding obstacles. When the dog passes this phase, it’s matched with a blind person. The person and the dog then train together, under the supervision of our staff of instructors for three weeks at our center and an additional week in their home.
A: Dogs don't see colors the same way we do and can’t read traffic lights. The dog’s owner learns to judge the movement of traffic by its sounds. At the appropriate time, he or she will command the dog, “kadema” (forward). The dog will not carry out the command unless it is safe to do so. This is called “intelligent disobedience.”
A: The dog doesn’t. Blind people generally know how to reach a destination by knowing how many blocks to go, in which direction to turn, etc. The person gives the dog commands that will enable the dog to guide them safely to their destinations. The basic commands are “forward,” “right,” and “left.” In all, the dogs understand about 40 commands - in Hebrew. In a new location, blind men and women, like sighted people, ask for directions and communicate them to the dog by using the proper commands. Sometimes when a team (Guide Dog and handler) have frequently walked to a certain destination, the dog will remember the route. However, it is always the handler’s responsibility to become oriented to the environment.
A: The dog is trained to stop at all curbs and wait for its partner’s command to go forward or to turn.
A: A Guide Dog must learn to sit, stay and turn on command. It must learn to ignore any distractions, including children playing other animals and birds while working.
A: Yes. The dog is taught to judge its handler’s width as well as its own. This enables the dog to safely guide the blind person around other people, parked cars on sidewalks, telephone or electric poles, etc. While more difficult, the dog is also taught to judge height which enables it to guide the person safely to avoid overhead obstacles such as over-hanging branches.
A: A dog and person can operate safely at the completion of the instruction period. However, the dog must get adjusted to its new home and to its partner’s routine. It takes about 6 months before the pair can function smoothly as a team.
A: Our instructors are always available to address any questions a graduate may have about training or care of their Guide Dog. Our trainers also conduct follow-up interviews by phone with students who have just left class and will follow up with a home visit a couple of times a year. Follow-up is an essential part of our program as we provide a lifetime commitment to all of our graduates.
A: There is no charge to the blind person for the school’s services which include the dog, the in-residence training in the effective use of the dog, dog handling equipment and follow-up or after-care services.
A: From breeding to training – including the cost to train the visually impaired partner – we estimate the cost of a Partnership to be $25,000. This does not include the other overhead costs involved with running the center.
A: From individuals, foundations, organizations, synagogues and bequests. Approximately 8% of the annual operating budget is paid by the Israel Ministries of Defense and Labor and Social Affairs. Funds are also raised by the British and Canadian Friends of the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind. In addition, there are many Bar and Bat Mitzvah students who raise $1,000 or more to sponsor puppies as their Mitzvah Project.
A: Absolutely! We have non-profit status in Israel, Canada, England and the United States.
A: Applicants must be at least 18 years old, legally blind, physically and emotionally capable of caring for a dog, and must be able to provide a safe and loving environment. In addition, candidates must show how they will resume a productive life. Since we have a long waiting list, we won’t provide a Guide Dog to simply be a companion.
A: After we receive an inquiry, one of our Mobility Instructors will visit an applicant in their home to evaluate their circumstances and to make sure that the environment is appropriate for a Guide Dog. We also provide a three-day orientation course at our center for people who are not sure that having a Guide Dog is the right step for them.
A: It takes approximately a year to a year-and-a-half to obtain a Guide Dog in Israel. We are trying to grow to meet the demand and shorten the waiting time, but our success depends on finding generous donors who understand why it is so important to help visually impaired Israelis resume their lives as productive citizens.
A: Yes. The instructors, in some cases, will provide domiciliary training or at-home instruction, usually to more experienced Guide Dog users but also in such situations where the person is needed at home and cannot leave a spouse for three weeks of instruction at the Center.
A: To volunteer as a puppy raiser, you must live in Israel, complete an application and submit it. If you are accepted, it usually takes between 6 months to a year before you will receive a puppy. Puppy raisers are our most popular volunteer program.
A: Most people who are legally blind are not totally blind. Many can see colors or shapes, however it is very important to let the Guide Dog provide safe mobility for the team. If someone has too much sight, they stop relying on the dog, and the partnership breaks down.
A: We provide transportation to and from the center. We also provide the housing and meals during the training course. All of this is done free of charge.
A: We welcome visitors to tour our facility. We only ask that you please call and set up an appointment prior to your visit so that we may have a staff member available to show you around. We also welcome tour groups.
A: Unfortunately, a puppy’s immune system is not fully developed at birth, so it could be dangerous for humans to handle them. We do have mature dogs in the kennels that you will be able to pet.
A: Three weeks at our center plus an additional week in their home.
A: Visiting hours are available during the weekends for family and friends. Because of the rigorous schedule during the week and the need for students to bond with their new Guide Dog visitors are not allowed during weekdays.
Amit Bar-El was a soldier fighting house-to-house during the 2006 Lebanon War. As he rushed to the aid of a wounded comrade, Amit opened a door only to have a rocket fly past and explode in the wall next to him. He received multiple shrapnel wounds
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