The Process

Labradors and Golden Retrievers (and first-crosses) are our dogs of choice because they are highly trainable, responsive, intelligent and have calm temperaments. The dogs come in a variety of sizes and personalities which allow for a close match to the needs of a person who is visually impaired. One of their most important traits is their willingness to please.

 

About 63 days after the dogs have been mated, the pregnant bitches return to the breeding center from their boarding homes to give birth in our whelping center under the constant care of our breeding manager. The pups stay at the Center for the first two months and are then placed in the loving homes of puppy-raising families where they learn socialization and other skills to help assure that they will be acceptable for guide dog training. The goal of these foster families is to lavish love and teach the puppies how to learn. They romp and play and sleep by the bed. They learn right from left and right from wrong. No begging at the table, no sleeping on couches and no chasing cats. These dogs must learn discipline, but also lead happy, active lives. It all looks easy, but it takes a lot of work and training. It involves hundreds of miles of walking, a lot of perseverance, and a ton of patience.

 

As you can imagine, the families become very attached to the puppies and even though everyone knows that the puppies will perform a wonderful service, it is still difficult to say good-bye.  We invite the families to a special "Separation Ceremony" where everyone joins together for an emotional send off.  We are grateful for these wonderful volunteers, and although separation is difficult, the puppy-raisers say it's all worth it.  Many families have raised more than one puppy for us. 

Separation Ceremony

The dogs are then trained for a period of five months, first in residential settings and then in downtown, busy areas. Obedience training is done throughout the training process and we use positive reinforcement to praise the dogs for lessons well learned. During the training period, the dogs are taught to stop at every up and down curb, to avoid obstacles including electric poles in the middle of sidewalks, concrete barriers at corners, cars parked on sidewalks, holes in the pavement and low branches.  They learn to behave properly in shops and restaurants and to travel quietly on buses. They even warn their human partners about cutout curbs that are so helpful for wheelchairs but so lethal for the blind, who need to know where the sidewalk ends and the street begins.  Most importantly the dogs learn "Intelligent Disobedience" where they will refuse a command to proceed if it is not safe. 

 Yaniv with his guide dog

Toward the end of the training process, the dogs are matched with the visually impaired candidates for temperament, size and strength. For example, a soft, gentle dog without a strong pull would generally be selected for an older woman. The matching process is crucial to the success of the Partnership. We then bring the visually impaired Israeli to our center for three weeks of training during which time the user learns how to take care of the needs of the dog and is instructed in the effective use of the guide dog through a series of daily walks in near-by towns.

 

Following the course at the Center, the instructor then accompanies the clients to their homes and works with them in their normal environment for a week going to their place of work, to the bank, the market, the post office, to the vet and other places to familiarize the dog with the daily routine. In most countries, it is an offense to deny access to guide dogs in taxis, restaurants and public places.  At the end of the instruction period, there are a number of after-care visits made during the first month to assure that the dog is working effectively and to answer any questions. Instructors are available at any time to respond to the needs of the clients.

 

When guide dog owner Moti Barzilai was asked how his dog changed his life, he commented that his guide dog, Charlie, did more than change his life, "he revolutionized it". Moti travels by bus from Zefat to the guide dog center in Beit Oved, making one change at the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv. For someone who is visually impaired, there are three methods of mobility - a human guide, a long cane or a guide dog.  Guide dog users like Moti agree: guide dogs enable them to achieve a whole new level of independence and empowerment. Click here to read comments from other guide dog owners.

Sponsor a puppy

Sponsor a future guide dog and help us to provide the love and support that is so crucial during the first year of a puppy’s life. The cost to raise a puppy is $1000, which includes all of their food, toys and immunizations. We see to it that the puppies are raised in a nurturing and enriched environment to prepare them for the important work that they will do. In less than two years, these amazing animals will make a profound difference in the life of someone who is visually impaired.

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Me and my guide

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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Help to support Guide Dogs in Israel by donating through our secure online donations page.

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