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How do dogs become Seeing Eye Dogs?

Seeing Eye Dogs is Australia’s only national breeder, trainer and provider of dog guides. The wellbeing and welfare of our dogs is our top priority, with great care taken to support everyone involved in the journey of our dogs from birth to retirement. 

If you’ve ever been curious about how an adorable young pup goes on to become a dog guide for Seeing Eye Dogs, read below to learn about their path to success and the many people that make it all possible. 

A world-class breeding program

Our Seeing Eye Dogs journey begins at a purpose-built breeding facility in Victoria. Specially bred Labradors and Golden Retrievers are chosen for their temperaments and suitability to train as a Seeing Eye Dog. These dogs are cared for in homes by our wonderful volunteer Breeding Dog carers, returning to our kennel for care by our veterinary team when it’s time to breed the next generation of Seeing Eye Dogs.  

Puppies with great purpose

Seeing Eye Dogs are born with great purpose — but first, it’s time to be pups! Our young puppies spend the first eight weeks of their lives with our caring staff in the puppy centre. When they’re ready to leave their mother, they are placed with volunteer Puppy Carers who give them all the love and guidance needed for the first 12 months of their lives. This is where they start learning obedience and foundation skills such as socialisation on public transport and staying off furniture. 

Our volunteer Puppy Carers are given plenty of support and all veterinary costs and food is taken care of by Seeing Eye Dogs, thanks to the generosity of our donors

Learning to lead the way 

At around 12-15 months, dogs are ready to undertake an advanced training program to become a Seeing Eye Dog. Dogs spend each weekday with their trainers and enjoy evenings and weekends in a home environment with volunteers

Over five months, dogs are taught to safely guide a person with blindness and ignore distractions. Our training program is internationally accredited and Seeing Eye Dogs is a member of the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) and Assistance Dogs International.

There’s no one formula for success when it comes to training a Seeing Eye Dog. Our skilled trainers use positive reward-based training based on what motivates and pleases each individual dog, such as verbal praise, pats, food and play. They’re also given a variety of engaging and stimulating activities and exercise outside of training routines. 

You can learn more about our individual approach to training and commitment to animal welfare here

Life as a service dog

Seeing Eye Dogs love to work! The dogs who complete their five months of training with a wagging tail will go on to the matching process to create a rewarding new partnership with someone who is living with blindness. 

Of course, not every dog that undergoes training will go on to become a working Seeing Eye Dog. We select the dogs that perform well and love to work, thriving on the daily routine of life out and about as a dog guide. If a dog isn’t suited to life as a service dog or has ongoing health issues, they will be reclassified to a new role. This could involve training with another accredited Assistance Dogs program (e.g. therapy dogs), or being adopted as a pet.

If a dog enters pet life, Seeing Eye Dogs works to find a loving home for each dog that fits their needs and requirements. This might be the Puppy Carer who raised them or to a member of the public who has registered to adopt a dog

The perfect match 

We take a person-centred approach to the services we provide, ensuring we cater training and support to each individual’s lifestyle and goals. This approach extends to our dogs in the way we train, motivate, reward and match our Seeing Eye Dogs. 

We celebrate and respect the unique qualities of every Seeing Eye Dog, using their strengths to create successful partnerships. Our application process includes interviews and home visits to assess the lifestyle and mobility needs of every person, helping us to match them with the best dog for the job. 

Retiring from service

Seeing Eye Dogs staff stay in contact with all clients and will assess the health and working fitness of our dogs throughout their service. This helps us maintain high wellbeing standards and determine when a dog may be ready to retire from service, so we can plan the next steps well in advance. 

Seeing Eye Dogs live the remainder of their days as a well loved pet. In most cases they will stay with their owner, even after they train with a new Seeing Eye Dog. If this arrangement is unsuitable, the dog will live with a family member, or be offered to the public for adoption. All applicants for adoption are screened for suitability and high welfare standards to ensure dogs can live out their retirement comfortably.

A rewarding new friendship awaits

Could you open your heart and home to a Seeing Eye Dogs puppy or dog in training?

Join our community of dog-loving volunteers and create an impact that lasts a lifetime. Read our FAQS, join an online information session, or contact us on 1800 037 773 to learn more about puppy and dog caring roles.

Learn more Attend an information session