Process - Vision Guide Dogs


The process of getting a guide dog begins with you at your home. The first step in the process is considering if a guide dog is right for you. Ask yourself:

  1. Are you already active or do you wish to become more active? 
  2. Are you comfortable having a dog live in the house with you? 
  3. Are you willing to take on the responsibility of a dog and provide a suitable environment for your mutual success? This includes the cost of animal feed and veterinary care.

If your answers are yes, or most of the answers are yes, give us a call and we can connect you with an experienced guide dog user to help you make an informed decision.

STEP 2  

Before you apply to get a guide dog, make sure you are eligible to have a guide dog matched with you. The requirements to be matched with a guide dog include: 

  1. Legally Blind: Your eye doctor must make the determination that you are legally blind. This does not mean you must be totally blind; many guide dog users have some sight ability. 
  2. White Cane Trained: You must have successfully completed the Orientation and Mobility (O&M) training and be able to use a white cane to navigate the community.
  3. Physically Ready: You must be physically strong enough to walk at least 4 blocks without stopping to rest. Also, you must have the physical strength and endurance to do the daily tasks you would like to complete such as walking stairs to get on a bus, etc.
  4. You must be 15 years of age or older.  

If you have met these requirements or are ready to meet these requirements, give us a call so we can talk with you to help take the next step needed to advance in the matching process. We are happy to provide resources so you can meet the requirements as well as tell you more about the possibilities for independence when using a guide dog. 


Once you have met all of the above requirements, you are eligible to complete an application for a guide dog with Vision Guide Dogs.  

  1. Apply: Applications are completed over the phone or online at We anticipate opening our application process in the fall of 2023.  We hope you will consider applying with us. In addition to completing the application, you will be asked to  provide a vision report completed by your ophthalmologist, medical report completed by your primary care physician, and a report or reference from your O&M instructor that you’ve successfully completed an O&M program.
  2. Review: When Vision Guide Dogs receives an application from a potential client, the application is then given to our Guide Dog Mobility Instructor (GDMI) for review and recommendations. The GDMI will review the application and first, confirm your eligibility, and then they consider what additional preparation, training, or resources will make your match with a guide dog more successful. 
  3. Respond: Once the application is reviewed, the GDMI will contact you to share the outcome of their review. They will let you know if you are eligible for a Vision Guide Dog and make any recommendations for additional help Vision Guide Dogs feels will make the match more successful. In this conversation, the GDMI will let you know the next steps required to continue the matching process with Vision Guide Dogs. 

If you decide a guide dog is not right for you at this time, or if you are not comfortable with the recommendations of Vision Guide Dogs, you may discontinue the application and matching process at any time by contacting Vision Guide Dogs. We ask that you keep us informed of your intentions as waitlists for guide dogs are often long and it is helpful to other potential clients to have a realistic estimate for how long it will take to be matched with a guide dog. 


Once you are fully approved for a future match with a Vision Guide Dog, the GDMI will schedule a Home Visit to meet you, your family, and assess your abilities and walking environment. The importance of the Home Visit cannot be overstated. This visit is critical to a successful match because this is the time when the GDMI tries to learn enough about you and your goals to match you with the most appropriate dog. Vision Guide Dogs does not match clients with guide dogs on a first-come-first-serve basis. Rather, we believe in making the right match. Just as no two clients have the same life or goals, no two dogs have the same temperament or ability to bond and serve their human. When applying with Vision Guide Dogs, you must be willing to wait until the right dog for you becomes available. For example, if you have a heavy workload and walk long distances or in complicated environments on a daily basis, you will need a dog with more drive than if you will use your dog primarily to walk around your neighborhood and occasionally to a store or restaurant. We believe this matching is critical to your success as a guide dog team and this goal serves as the foundation for our placement process.


When Vision Guide Dogs believes they have found the right match for you, they will plan another visit with you. The GDMI will arrange to come to your home and bring the dog for you to meet and interact with.

  1. This visit is called the Matching Visit as it is a time for us to confirm we have identified a good match for you and the dog.  
  2. Also during this visit, if you have other pets (cats, dogs, birds), it will provide the GDMI an opportunity to observe the dog with the other animals, as well as how the dog behaves in your home environment. The GDMI may make suggestions on small adjustments at home that could help with the match or identify additional training that will help the dog better serve you.  
  3. The best part of this visit is that you will go on your first in-harness walk with the dog while the GDMI retains control of the dog on a long leash.  

Your guide dog will then return to Vision Guide Dogs and continue their training and preparation. 


Approximately 30 days after the Matching Visit, the GDMI will contact you to set up a date to officially start training with the dog. Training time is dependent on your experience navigating the world with a guide dog. If you have used a guide dog in the past, this may only take a few weeks. If you are a first-time guide dog user, training will likely take four to five weeks. During this training you can expect:

  1. You, the GDMI, and the dog will go for walks twice a day, up to 6 days a week.
  2. On your walks, you will cover a variety of scenarios including busy urban traffic and pedestrian spaces. With Vision Guide Dogs, you will walk in your neighborhood and places that are routine to your lifestyle. 
  3. You will learn how to recognize when your dog is signaling an obstacle and what type of obstacle the dog is indicating. The GDMI will help you become proficient in moving with the dog, dealing with traffic, managing the dog in a restaurant or store, and more. Our goal is to help you develop competence and confidence in any situation you encounter during a regular walk. Additionally, we want to help you learn how to work with the dog to problem-solve. 

Upon completion of Training, you will graduate as a Vision Guide Dog Certified Guide Dog Team and begin your journey with confidence, empowerment, independence, and with a loving, furry companion! 


Approximately six months after graduation and every year thereafter for the life of the dog, a GDMI will visit you and your dog for a Follow-Up Visit to observe you work with your dog and: 

  1. Resolve any issues you may be experiencing or working to overcome.
  2. Address any questions you may have. 
  3. If the dog is getting older, discuss your Retirement Plan for your guide dog. When the dog reaches the age of nine years, the GDMI will be looking more critically at the energy and health of the dog, as well as your changing needs. This is done in preparation of potentially retiring your dog at ten years old and looking for another suitable dog for you. Retired guide dogs most often stay with their users, but may be given to friends or relatives that will provide a suitable home environment. Alternatively, Vision Guide Dogs will take the dog and find it a loving retirement home as someone’s pet.

Your relationship with Vision Guide Dogs is long-term because we are invested in your success. We take seriously our goal of helping you “Navigate the world”, not just the world you currently live within, but the world you desire. A guide dog can expand that world and we are excited to be on this journey with you.

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