What Guide Dogs Do
Guide dogs belong to a legally-recognized group known as “Service Dogs”. Guide dogs live up to their title. These dogs receive intensive training specifically designed to teach them to lead, or guide, people who are blind, deaf-blind, or partially sighted. The journey begins with volunteer puppy raisers who look after the dogs on behalf of the schools. Puppy raisers house break the new puppies, teach them good social manners, expose them to as many different situations as possible and provide lots of love. When the dogs are about one year old they are returned to the school where they begin their training before being matched with their new handlers. The dog’s training at the school with a trainer lasts for six to twelves months.
Handlers rely on their guide dogs each and every day to get them safely to and from work or school, shopping, leisure activities, or just a relaxing walk around the neighbourhood on a sunny morning. More than just mobility aids, guide dogs are constant sources of affection and companionship. Guide dogs increase the handler’s self-confidence and quality of life by providing them with a unique type of independence. The bond between handler and guide dog is difficult to describe due to its encompassing nature.
Guide Dog Users of Canada has a specific program called the Wellness Fund which provides assistance to handlers in financial need when their guide dogs become ill or injured. The fund helps keep guide dogs guiding for as long as possible.
Since 2013 the fund has provided grants to handlers in order to offset some of their veterinary costs. Most handlers do everything in their power to maintain the health and well-being of their guides. Regular teeth brushing, ear cleaning, grooming, and maintenance of their body weight all help to ensure that guide dogs are kept in tip-top condition. Handlers will play with their dogs to help keep their stress levels down.
To be eligible for membership in Guide Dog Users of Canada; a person must be interested in furthering the GDUC mandate, be a citizen or permanent resident of Canada, and meet at least one of the following criteria:
- Currently partnered with a guide dog or Previously partnered with a guide dog;
- Interested in, and potentially eligible to be partnered with a guide dog.
GDUC defines a guide dog as a dog which has received extensive and specialized training, by a School affiliated with the International Guide Dog Federation, to safely guide an individual who is blind, partially sighted, or deaf-blind.
An annual membership in GDUC costs $10.00 CDN and runs from January 1 to December 31. A life membership costs $50.00 CDN.
- Vote at all member meetings;
- Run for any position on the board of directors;
- Volunteer on any GDUC sanctioned committee;
- Become part of the members email distribution lists;
- Receive the GDUC Two By Four Newsletter;
- Access a free mp3 download of Gone to the Dogs and Loving it, a collection of poems by GDUC life member Devon Wilkins.