About Costs

Is a charge made for the Guide Dog?

There is no charge to our clients for the Center’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.

What does it cost to produce a Guide Dog?

From breeding to training—including the cost to train the visually impaired partner—we estimate the cost of a Partnership to be around £25,000. This does not include the other overhead costs involved with running the centre. When overhead is factored in, the cost is closer to £43,000 each. Keep in mind that a guide dog works every day, 365 days a year for approximately eight years. This is a life-changing gift to someone who is blind from a great charity in Israel.

How is the organization supported?

Through donations by individuals, foundations, organizations, synagogues and bequests in the UK, Canada, Israel and the United States. In addition, there are many Bar and Bat Mitzvah students who raise funds to sponsor puppies as their Mitzvah Project. Approximately 8% of the annual operating budget is paid by the Israel Ministries of Defense and Welfare.

Is my donation tax deductible?

Absolutely! We have non-profit status in Israel, Canada the UK and the United States.

In the United Kingdom we are a Charity Commission registered charity number, 1027996.

About Mobility

What is the difference between having a cane and having a trained Guide Dog?

A person using a white cane must find obstacles, while a guide dog simply avoids them—allowing much faster mobility. 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. People generally avoid a blind person with the cane;whereas, someone with a Guide Dog will often be approached by others, which encourages social contact.

Can I pet or feed a guide dog?

The greatest difficulty Guide Dog users encounter is public interference—which can endanger their lives. When a guide dog is in harness it is working and should not be distracted from its job. So please do not pet the dog, call or whistle to it, or feed the dog. If the dog is resting, always ask the dog’s partner for permission to pet the dog.

How can I help a blind person in the street?

If you think that a Guide Dog user needs assistance, calmly ask if he or she would like help. If they accept your offer to cross the street or find a destination, offer them your left elbow to hold. Walk slightly in front and alongside the person at a normal pace and warn them of obstacles or stairs. Never touch the dog or take hold of its collar or harness.

Where are Guide Dogs allowed to go?

In Israel, everywhere! Guide Dogs are allowed to travel for 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, sports facilities and hotels. Refusing entry to a person accompanied by a Guide Dog is against the law and can incur a large fine.

Are there things I should or should not do when I am around a Guide Dog?

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 blind partner in jeopardy.

About Our Dogs

What breeds of dogs are the best for Guide Dog training?

Labradors and Golden Retrievers (and first-crosses) have proven to be best suited to be guide dogs because they are highly trainable, responsive, intelligent, not easily distracted, and have calm temperaments. 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.

How long does a Guide Dog work and what happens when it retires?

The average working life for a Guide Dog is 8 years. Retired Guide Dogs may be kept as pets by their blind partner, or adopted by a loving home such as the original puppy-raising family. We have a long waiting list of loving families who want to adopt retired dogs.

What happens to dogs that are unsuitable to train as Guide Dogs?

All of the dogs we breed and raise assist someone in need. Over half become guide dogs, and the rest that don’t meet our high standards are offered to people with Special Needs—such as blind or autistic children, IDF soldiers suffering from PTSD, or to those with other physical, emotional or psychological needs.

Are male or female dogs better for guiding?

There is no difference.

Will guide dogs protect their partner or guard their home?

No. A guide dog’s job is to lead a person who is blind safely. The breeds that are used for guide dogs are calm and non-aggressive, and they do not attack strangers or bite. It is extremely important that the dogs remain calm when they are working in crowded or noisy public places.

How many puppies are produced each year?

It varies depending on factors such as the number of breeding dogs and size of litters, and the number of dogs that are required to enter guide dog training.

What is the difference between a “Seeing Eye Dog” and a Guide Dog?

There is no difference. The first guide dog school in America is called The Seeing Eye. They trademarked the term “Seeing Eye Dog”, but there is no significant difference between the training of a Guide Dog in Israel, and a Seeing Eye Dog from Morristown, New Jersey.

How many puppies are being raised by families at any given time?

Approximately 75-120 pups.

How are the dogs’ names selected?

Each litter is assigned a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and the dogs are given English names, to avoid confusion so the dog will not hear its name called out while working in public spaces in Israel.

Can I follow the progress of a particular dog?

We provide a Guide Dog to the visually impaired for free and “with no strings attached”, so our clients are not asked to provide photographs and updates. We also feel strongly about ensuring the confidentiality of clients.

Can I donate my dog or puppy to the Israel Guide Dog Center?

No, but thank you for asking. 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.

Who receives ownership of the Guide Dog after graduating?

The Israel Guide Dog Center maintains ownership of the guide dog from birth through retirement. Once a guide dog retires, ownership is transferred either to its blind partner or to the new adoptive family.

About Our History

When did the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind begin training dogs and instructing people?

The center was established in January of 1991. Our first client was Haim Tsur, a concert violinist from Jerusalem who graduated with Tillie, a Yellow Lab that was donated byGuide Dogs for the Blind Association (now UK Guide Dogs) in the UK.

How many people are blind or visually impaired in Israel?

There are over 24,000 legally blind Israelis, according to government records, but the Association for the Blind in Israel thinks the number is closer to 40,000. It’s easy to understandwhy the demand for our services is so high, and why we have such a long waiting list.

Why is it important to have a school in Israel?

Prior to opening our center, visually impaired Israelis had to be proficient in English, pass a government test,and travel to either the US or the UK for a dog—that was trained in English and not accustomed to the heat or the unique conditions in Israel. Essential follow up care by staff was not possible, so having highly trained instructors just a couple of hours away is critical.

Do you have programs that allow students to get involved?

Many students select us for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah Project, or Classroom Tzedakah Project. This is a great way for them to feel connected to a charity in Israel to help provide a guide dog for the blind, a Service Companion to an IDF soldier with PTSD, a service dog to an autistic or blind child, or provide a four-legged best friend for disabled adults with other special needs. Our website has a section dedicated to Mitzvah and Tzedakah projects.

About The Application Process

Who is eligible to receive a Guide Dog?

Applicants must be Israeli citizens, at least 16 years old, legally blind, physically and emotionally capable of caring for a dog, and must be able to provide a safe and loving environment. All applicants are interviewed and screened to determine whether a guide dog will provide the best solution for mobility. Since we have a long waiting list, we won’t provide a Guide Dog to simply be a companion.

What is the application process?

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.

How are Guide Dogs matched with a blind partner?

Professional trainers at the Center evaluate each dog and each applicant. Dogs are assessed for their size, strength, and temperament. They are then carefully matched to suit each client according to his or her physical strength, pace and lifestyle.

How long does it take to get a Guide Dog?

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.

Is it possible to receive Guide Dog instruction at home?

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.

How can I become a puppy raiser?

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 raisingis our most popular volunteer program.

Are people who are not totally blind able to receive a Guide Dog?

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.

Is there any upper age limit for working with a guide dog?

There is no upper age limit for receiving a guide dog. Elderly people can continue to use a guide dog as long as they can walk safely and at a reasonable pace and care for the dog.

If accepted to a class, how do the students get to the center?

We provide transportation to and from the center. We also provide the housing and meals during the three-week training course. All of this is done free of charge.

About The Training Process

What’s the Guide Dog training process and how long does it take?

Guide Dogs are trained in the same way as many pets, with lots of repetition and positive reinforcement. At the age of two months, puppies leave their litter and spend about a year in homes with volunteer puppy raisers where they learn left from right and right from wrong. The raisers expose them to everyday sights and sounds and also teach them basic obedience and commands. Puppy raisers provide socialization while giving lots of love. When the dog is 12-14 months old, it returns to our center for assessment, and if selected, begins a four to five month course of formal harness training with a professional Mobility Instructor. During this time, they learn Guide Dog skills, such as finding sidewalks and avoiding obstacles. When the dog successfully completes training, it’s matched with a blind Israeli. The new partners then train together, under the supervision of our instructors for three weeks at our center and an additional week of instruction in their home.

How does a dog know when to cross the street?

Dogs don’t see colors the same way we do and can’t read traffic lights. The dog’s blind partner 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.”

How does a dog know where a blind person wants to go?

The dog doesn’t. People who are blind 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 or unfamiliar location, person who isblind—like sighted people—ask for directions and communicate them to the dog by using the proper commands. Sometimes when a team (Guide Dog and partner) have frequently walked to a certain destination, the dog will remember the route. However, it is always the blind partner’s responsibility to know where to go.

How does a person who is blind know when there is a curb ahead?

The dog is trained to stop at all curbs and wait for its partner’s command to go forward or to turn.

What other duties must the dog perform?

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.

Can the dog judge width and height?

Yes. The dog is taught to judge its partner’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 low-hanging branches.

How long does it take for a person and dog to function as a coordinated team?

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 six months before the pair can function smoothly as a team.

What problems confront guide dog teams in Israel?

Guide dogs trained at the Center are taught to deal with difficult conditions that exist in Israel, including numerous types of obstacles on the sidewalk, difficult traffic conditions, and the hot climate.

What types of follow-up services are available when a graduate returns home?

Our instructors are always available to address any questions our clients may have about training or care of their Guide Dog. Our trainers also conduct follow-up interviews by phone with clients who have just completed their four-week instruction, and will follow up with regular home visits. Follow-up is an essential part of our program as we provide a lifetime commitment to all of our graduates.

How do I become a guide dog instructor?

Guide Dog Schools usually train their own Guide Dog Instructors. As an aspiring instructor you would need to seek an apprenticeship at the school of your choice. Once accepted you can expect the apprenticeship to last for a period of at least three years before being fully qualified. During that time you will learn aspects of dog care and guide dog training, mobility and orientation, as well as working directly with blind and visually impaired people. The job demands the ability to take responsibility, working independently and as part of a team. The instructor is required to work in all types of weather. The work is challenging and rewarding.

About Visiting The Center

Can I visit and tour the school?

We welcome visitors to tour our facility. We only ask that you please call or email 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.

Can we play with the newborn puppies?

Unfortunately, a puppy’s immune system is not fully developed at birth, so it could be dangerous for humans to handle them. You will be able to interact with the other dogs on campus.

How long is the training period after you match a client with a dog?

Three weeks at our center plus an additional week in their home.

Can the students have visitors at the Center?

Family and friends are allowed for visits during the weekends. 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.