10 Things You Probably Don’t Know about Guide Dogs

TroyIt was quite by accident that I came to know about Troy, a guide dog, and his handler, Helen.  Troy was recognized for his service in the workplace via a Twitter contest; I thought the least I could do for such a great dog is create a custom keychain for him, so I reached out to the Media Relations Director, Jennifer Bement, at Southeastern Guide Dogs in Palmetto (near Tampa), Florida.

But I was the one who really made out!

I had scant knowledge about the incredible work that guide dogs are trained to perform, and certainly no sense of the dedication, purpose and experience of the organizations that train them.

Most importantly, I had no idea about the special bond that certainly must develop between a guide dog and handler.

Here are just a couple of the interesting facts I learned about the dogs and programs at Southeastern Guide Dogs:

1.  Southeastern is the only dog school in the south.

It came about because it was critical that the dogs be acclimated to the extreme heat and humidity of the region.  Dogs transplanted from the north were not well suited for the transition.

2.  Annually, between 200 and 225 Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever and Goldador (Lab X Golden) puppies are born every year.

The most common names are Maggie, Buddy and Liberty – and Puppy Naming Sponsorships are available for $3,500.

3.  Volunteers are involved right from the beginning.

The first are the 50 breeder host families, who care for the mom-dogs until they are called into service or its time to deliver puppies.

4.  Puppy Raisers step in at 9 weeks and start basic obedience and socialization. 

Puppies go to work, school, restaurants, shopping, etc. with the Puppy Raiser to become familiar with and confident in the outside world.  There are 250 puppies in Puppy Raiser homes, and one puppy to a household.  Puppies stay until they are 14 – 18 months old.

Do you think you’d be interested in becoming a Puppy Raiser?  Take the self-assessment quiz and apply!

Puppy Hugging5.  The public is welcome to volunteer for “Puppy Hugging” sessions (yes!).

Adults and children can come in and just play with the pups to expose them to new sights and smells.

And if you can’t be there to enjoy the puppies, you can watch from the “Puppy Cam”,

6.  Formal harness training starts when the pups leave Puppy Raiser homes.

The pups learn more than 40 commands during an intensive 6 months of training.  Over 80 dogs can be in training at one time.

7.  When is it ok to pet a guide dog?

Well, that depends.  Jennifer Bement has a fabulous article about that, “Mind Your Manners: Guide Dog Etiquette” in the Bradenton Patch.

8.  Dogs who meet the rigorous standards are placed in one of two programs:

Paws for Independence places dogs with visually impaired handlers – the people who will rely on them going forward – for a 26 day training course and a near lifetime partnership.

Paws for Patriots teams up dogs with veterans who are visually impaired, or have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Therapy dogs are provided to several military hospitals.

9.  No dog is left behind!

The Gifted Canines program places dogs who have completed training but might not be best suited as a guide dog with visually impaired children as companions to help the children learn about working with a guide dog.  Some dogs become public service dogs, working in search and rescue or detection.  And some become ambassador dogs, working in therapy or public relations.

10.  All services are provided free of charge to the recipient! 

Southeastern Guide Dogs are supported entirely by donors and volunteers!  A critical fundraiser, the Walkathon, is held in different locations in Florida.  Helen and Troy will be walking on March 9 – check out their page.

And what about that connection between handler and guide dog – “a partnership that facilitates life’s journey with mobility, independence and dignity”?

Helen calls Troy “my Beautiful Troy”.  “He is the sweetest dog I have ever known and I have had eight guide dogs over the course of 40+ years.”

Love, devotion, responsibility – all on 4 legs!



  1. Vivian Dean says

    I think what you are doing is wonderful! My husband is a disabled Vietnam Era Vet. with sever diabetis. He is on dialysis and is 90% blind in his left eye. The VA is working hard to keep his other, but their is no guarentee that it will not hemoriage also. We have 2 rat terriors, one is 11 years old and the other one is 3 years old. It is amazing how they can tell when my husband and myself are not feeling well, they cuddle up to us and insist on being rubbed or scratched. We love them to pieces and take them with us every where we go (except stores and eating establishments that do not allow them inside). Keep up the good work, and thanks for all that you do!

  2. Janet Thoreson says

    I was fortunate enough to adopt a “career change” pup from SE Guide Dogs when she was 14 months old. They said that she has level one displasia. She would have made a great guide dog because she is totally devoted to me (we’re kind of joined at the hip). I am so very grateful for my beautiful “Freya” and thank you for allowing me to parent this wonderful black Lab.

  3. Rhythm says

    I am a career change Lab from Southeastern Guide Dogs! That is one fabulous place! I am now a therapy dog in Texas. Thanks for such a nice post about guide dogs!

  4. Cheryl Castle says

    My husband lost his eye sight at the age of 66. When he received his guide dog in October of 2011 he found the independence he had lost with Lucy. She is his best companion, his true friend, he trusts her with his life thanks to Southeastern Guide Dog and their incredible trainers. In the beginning there was a lot of adjustments to do but today a year and a half later they are 1. She is at his side 24/7 even at home without the harness and leash on she is still at his side, on his feet or under the table at meals. She is his true guide, Lucy is Cesar’s eyes. I don”t know what Cesar would have done without her! Southeastern Guide Dog will always have a special place in our heart.

  5. sharon says

    It must have been very difficult for your husband to acclimate to his loss; my heart gets filled up just hearing about how Lucy was able to help him with a sense of love and dedication beyond words. Thank you so much for sharing the story of Cesar and Lucy’s journey. The work at Southeastern Guide Dogs is truly amazing!

  6. Tina Sukumar says

    Please let me know if you have a Goldador ( yellow, female ) available for adoption that has not met your criteria for guide dog or therapy dog and is looking for a home to go.We just lost our wonderful Goldador to an illness.

  7. Eileen Lorich says

    I just found this site an I want to give all of you a BIG THANK YOU for everything you do to make a persons life come alive and for the amazing job you all do an tons of hugs to the puppy’s who will one day be someone’s partner in life …

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