FAQ about owning a seeing eye dog

How does having a Seeing Eye Dog help a person who is vision impaired?

Brown Labrador Seeing Eye Dog wearing harness is being guided by instructor.Seeing Eye Dogs enable Australians with a vision impairment to retain their independence and mobility.

For the right person, a Seeing Eye Dog is a far better option than using a cane allowing them to move more quickly and navigate obstacles with much more reliability and safety. A Seeing Eye Dog can use its own initiative to stop at roads and move its owner out of the path of danger.

A Seeing Eye Dog also provides constant companionship, alleviating the effects of loneliness, depression and contributing to an all-round better quality of life.

How do I find out if having a Seeing Eye Dog is right for me?

The first step is to call us on 1800 037 773. An instructor can speak with you and answer any questions you might have. We can also put you in touch with someone who already has a Seeing Eye Dog, so you can hear first-hand what working with a dog is really like. Contact us to be directed to the details of our support group.

You can be assured we’ll answer all your questions or concerns simply and honestly at any stage of the selection process.

What does the formal assessment involve?

You will be asked to complete our application form and submit this to us. To request an application pack in your preferred format, you can call us on 1800 037 773 or email info@seda.org.au.

After we receive your application, we request you to undertake a medical examination to ensure you are healthy enough to care for a Seeing Eye Dog and you would not be putting yourself at risk.

After receiving a positive medical report, we then need to learn about you. We conduct fairly extensive interviews (usually around 90 minutes or so) to build a clear picture of your specific situation. This information will be vital later on, when we match you with a dog that will suit your needs and lifestyle. We always welcome any questions you might have about SEDA or our dogs.

We send out instructors to look at the places where the dog will be spending time — including the locality,  be it the city, suburban or rural, your home and, if appropriate, your work or school. It’s also the ideal opportunity to run a few practical tests involving a dog harness. These allow us to determine the size, speed and strength of the dog that would suit you best.

After you have been accepted for training, it is just a question of waiting for the right dog to become available. This can take between six and twelve months, depending on the availability of a trained dog that meets your specific needs.

When you have been successfully matched with your dog, you will progress to more formal training — either in your own home or at a residential training centre.

Is every application successful?

Woman is walking with her seeing eye dog whilst pushing her baby in the pram If we do have to turn down an application for a Seeing Eye Dog, it is usually either because we believe the applicant would not benefit from having a dog or would not have the ability to take care of the dog.

Applicants who have some remaining useful sight sometimes find it difficult to allow a dog to guide them – this can undermine the purpose of the dog and make the relationship unworkable.

In other cases, the applicant may be suffering health problems which make a Seeing Eye Dog impractical.

Finally, some applicants only have a limited need to use a Seeing Eye Dog – perhaps just within their home or at work.

Assessors may recommend to unsuccessful applicants the conditions under which the person may re-apply at a later date and/or refer them to other Vision Australia professionals for assistance.

Why is it such a long interview?

For the relationship between you and your Seeing Eye Dog to be truly successful, we need to ensure there’s a genuinely compatible match. For example, if you’re a slow walker and the dog is a fast walker, you may have difficulty handling the dog.

We need to know as much as we can about your life and your lifestyle to make sure we match you with the most appropriate dog. The interview is the main point of reference when we’re trying to achieve this perfect match.

What expenses would I need to cover if I received a Seeing Eye Dog?

All Seeing Eye Dogs are provided free of charge. However, you are responsible for the cost of feeding and taking care of your dog.

You would need to budget around $20 a week to care for your dog, depending it’s size.

On graduation we will supply you with the equipment you require — lead, harness and dog bed, but you may wish to buy other items, such as toys for your dog.

Many vets offer discounts for Seeing Eye Dogs but this is entirely between you and your vet. We expect you to take your dog to your vet every six months and then send the report to SEDA. In the event of major health problems, we may consider assistance with the cost of vet bills — this is considered on a case-by-case basis.

 

What’s involved in my training with a Seeing Eye Dog?

During training you will receive individual tuition from one of our expert instructors. Training normally takes between three and four weeks, but we can discuss different options that suit your circumstances.

Training is at our residence located near our national training facility in Melbourne or at special state-based locations around Australia. In special circumstances we do offer the option of conducting training in your own home, we will discuss with you and determine which arrangement is the best for you.

If I need to travel to undertake residential training, would I receive financial assistance?

SEDA covers the cost of travel, accommodation and meals during your residential training.

What happens after my training?

After you return home with your dog, your instructor will be in regular contact to make sure the new partnership is working effectively. An instructor will visit you at home soon after qualification to make sure you and your dog have become a team and have settled into working well together — they can also cover any routes with you.

During the first twelve months, your instructor will maintain regular phone contact with you and make between two and four visits. After that, we’ll still check with you at least once every twelve months to make sure everything is still going smoothly. You are of course; welcome to contact us at any time.

In the event of an after-hours emergency, clients are provided with a support phone number they can call. The phone number is monitored by SEDA Instructors.

If I apply and I’m accepted, how long will I have to wait for a Seeing Eye Dog?

This can vary — some of our clients are lucky enough to be matched with a dog within six months of joining our waiting list. Some clients may need to wait up to twelve months for a suitable dog.

How long you have to wait depends on how many other applicants are on the list at that time, how many dogs we have available and whether any of these dogs will make a good match for you.

We are continually reviewing our processes to minimise the waiting periods.

How long is a Seeing Eye Dog’s working life?

A typical Seeing Eye Dog works for about nine to ten years before they get too old and need to retire. However, this can vary from dog to dog.

What happens if I have problems with the service I’ve received?

If a problem should arise, we ask you to discuss this with your instructor. If this isn’t resolved to your satisfaction, we would ask you to contact our Client Service Manager.

If you would like to remain anonymous, you can refer any issues to our Client Services Advisory Committee, which comprises independent Seeing Eye Dog and other Vision Australia Mobility users.

The SEDA Client Advisory Committee provides advice to management and a mechanism to review and comment on Seeing Eye Dog Orientation and Mobility services policies, strategies and operations.

What’s the difference between a Seeing Eye Dog and a guide dog?

Seeing Eye Dogs and Guide Dogs are two different names for dog guides trained to work with people with vision impairment. In Australia, they are represented by Seeing Eye Dogs nationally and seven separate Guide Dog organisations.

Having more than a single provider of dog guides removes the restrictions that a monopoly could impose, especially in terms of exclusion from services due to eligibility criteria.

SEDA operates on a national basis and focuses exclusively on breeding, training and providing dogs. Guide Dogs are separate state-based organisations.

If you are seeking a Seeing Eye Dog we recommend that you place your name on the waiting list with us.

What are the age limits for applying?

We don’t have a specific age limit for applying for a Seeing Eye Dog. However, we do expect that you will be able to take sole responsibility for caring for your dog. For that reason, we usually wait until an applicant has turned 16 before matching them with a Seeing Eye Dog — but there is no upper age limit.

What breeds of dogs do you use?

We usually use Labradors and Golden Retrievers, as they typically have mild temperaments and can quickly adapt to new training. We have also achieved success by crossing the two breeds.

We are extremely demanding in relation to determining which dogs become Seeing Eye Dogs. All dogs are bred using specially selected breeding programs, stud dogs and via artificial insemination, using semen imported from overseas schools.

What does a Seeing Eye Dog actually do?

A Seeing Eye Dog is a mobility aid, trained to work with you, so you bond together to form a partnership. What the dog does is influenced by what the handler does.

Your dog can help you to navigate obstacles and stop you when you reach the edge of a road. It negotiates car and foot traffic, elevators, public transport, taxis and most everyday situations.

Handled correctly, it will ignore cats, loud noises and food. It will even know when to ignore your instructions, if following your order could possibly place you in danger.

Over time, your Seeing Eye Dog will come to learn your regular routines and use its own initiative to make your regular trips run smoothly.

What happens when a Seeing Eye Dog is “off-duty”?

While a Seeing Eye Dog is “off-duty,” it becomes a pet and can enjoy life in the same way as any normal dog.

However, we do expect good behaviour from the dog at all times to ensure that Seeing Eye Dogs continue to be welcome everywhere. A Seeing Eye Dog isn’t allowed on furniture, shouldn’t be given treats and shouldn’t be allowed to become attached to any person other than the handler.

Who pays to breed and train Seeing Eye Dogs?

Seeing Eye Dogs Australia receives very limited funding from the Government.  We continue to rely on the goodwill and support of the community through puppy sponsorship, donations and fundraising to breed and train Seeing Eye Dogs for people who are blind around Australia.

How do I apply or find out more?

For an informal discussion or if you wish to start the application process, please phone us on 1800 037 773 or (03) 9381 6400.  Alternatively you can contact us by email info@seda.org.au.


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