21 male and female Leader Dog guide dog mobility instructors stand in two rows, smiling and facing the camera

Who We Are

At Leader Dogs for the Blind we believe that everyone deserves a life of independence and mobility. All of our services are provided free of charge to our clients, including travel in the U.S. and Canada, room and board, equipment and training. This means that no one is excluded from living their most fulfilling life due to lack of funds.

We are 100% philanthropically funded by individual donors, Lions clubs, corporate partners and foundations. Simply put, we could not provide over one million days of independence each year without the immense generosity of our supporters.

Our programs are designed to provide our clients with the tools and training to reintroduce them to a life of confidence, safety and independence. Through our full-range of services—Guide Dog Training, Accelerated Orientation & Mobility Training and Summer Experience Camp—we meet the mobility needs of our clients at every stage of their lives.

Our Mission

Our mission is empowering people who are blind or visually impaired with lifelong skills for safe and independent daily travel.

Our Vision

Our vision is that every person who is blind or visually impaired travels safely and independently.

Our Values

In support of this mission and vision, our actions are guided, supported and measured by our values:

  • Do what is right: We act with integrity in every situation.
  • Show respect and compassion: We show empathy and kindness to every person and every dog.
  • Demonstrate passion for the work: We do more than just our job, we believe in our mission.
  • Deliver a superior experience: We exceed expectations for every person in the Leader Dog community.
  • Work as a team: We partner to achieve goals and advance the mission.
  • Seek innovation: We keep an open mind; we learn; we share our ideas; we drive change.
  • Practice safety: We provide a safe and supportive environment for ourselves and others.

Leader Dog History

It started with “$400 and a hatful of ideas.” - Donald P. Schuur, Leader Dog founder

We were founded on April 4, 1939 by Charles A. Nutting, Donald P. Schuur and S.A. Dodge, members of the Uptown Lions Club of Detroit. Their motivation was a fellow Lion, Dr. Glenn “Doc” Wheeler, who had lost his sight and wanted a guide dog. A small farm in Rochester Hills, Michigan was purchased for $1 and assumption of the mortgage. Over the years, additional land was acquired to make the 14-acre campus we occupy today.

The first class graduated in October 1939 at the cost of $600 per client/dog team. Clients were charged $150, a practice that was ended in 1958 when we made our services free of charge to clients, opening the door to everyone in need regardless of ability to pay. All services are still provided free of charge.

We began expanding our program offerings in 1992 by offering a dedicated program to train people who are Deaf-Blind and instructed using American Sign Language (ASL) with a guide dog. We followed this in 2002 by providing orientation & mobility (cane travel) training, in 2005 by offering free GPS units and training, and in 2007 by introducing our Summer Experience Camp for teenagers.