Two women stand outdoors with their hands touching as they communicate with tactile sign language

Guide Dog Training Options

We understand that our clients' abilities, circumstances and the ways they learn are different. That’s why we offer a variety of free training options, so our life-changing programs can be tailored to meet each client’s needs at every stage of life.

When applying for a guide dog, please indicate the guide dog training option(s) that you are interested in. While preferences will be taken into consideration, they cannot be guaranteed. If you are approved for training, we will work with you to determine the method of training that is the best fit for you.

On-Campus Training

This three-week residential training takes place at Leader Dog’s campus. It takes advantage of time away from home distractions to help solidify client skills, understanding of working concepts and bonding with a new dog.

  • Most popular option with shortest wait time
  • Most comprehensive, covering city, suburban, small town, rural and indoor environments
  • Most amount of time training alongside guide dog mobility instructors
  • Clients receive support from and share experiences with fellow clients in class
  • In-house orientation and mobility support is available if needed
  • Past clients always say the food is great

In-Home Delivery

A guide dog mobility instructor travels to the client’s home environment to provide one-on-one tailored instruction. Training duration is up to 10 days.

  • Clients can continue to care for their families and fulfill some work commitments during evening hours
  • Focuses on client's standard routes to work, school, medical appointments, etc.
  • Works around personal and/or family health issues

Flex

Combines the benefits of on-campus training and in-home delivery for maximum flexibility.

  • Provides a solid foundation of training
  • Personal follow-up in home environment
  • Allows clients to train in family and work situations

Urban

For clients who live in or frequently travel to a heavily populated urban area.

  • First two weeks take place on campus at Leader Dog
  • Week three of training is held in Chicago, Illinois
  • Clients get intensive exposure to mass transit, crowds, heavy traffic, complex intersections and more
  • Private hotel room in suburban location
  • Two-to-one client/instructor ratio in Chicago

Warm Weather

This 10-day training takes place in Naples, Florida, and is a good choice for clients who live in warm climates and for those with health conditions that limit their ability to train in cold weather.

  • Small class setting with two-to-one client/instructor ratio
  • Private hotel room
  • Occurs during winter months
  • First-time clients get home follow-up if needed

Deaf-Blind

This three-week training takes place at Leader Dog’s campus and is specifically for clients who are Deaf-Blind. Communication method is American Sign Language (ASL), either visual or tactile, depending on client needs.

A guide dog working with a person who is Deaf-Blind must be extremely mature. Their training stresses partner awareness because they receive all commands from their handler via hand signals. Much attention is placed on traffic awareness and proper street crossings since these can be extreme safety issues for people who are Deaf-Blind.

Clients applying for this program must meet all requirements for guide dog clients, plus demonstrate a proper method of crossing a street including the use of message cards, taped message device, human assistance or remaining functional vision.

Clients may speak with a guide dog mobility instructor via videophone by emailing their appointment request to clientservices@leaderdog.org. Please put “Videophone Appointment Request” in the subject line.

  • Covers city, suburban, small town, rural and indoor environments
  • Small class sizes with one-to-one or two-to-one client/instructor ratio
  • May include a Leader Dog that is dual-trained to lead and respond to sounds
  • Personal follow-up in home environment if needed
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