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Smiling woman with closed eyes leans her head back while getting a kiss from a golden retriever in Leader Dog harness sitting next to her. They are outdoors near some green and brown plants and decorative pumpkins.

Guide Dog Program: What to Expect

Leader Dogs for the Blind is committed to providing world-class guide dogs in a small class setting that allows training to be personalized for each client. We match our guide dogs to our clients with the best possible long-term partnership in mind and spend the three-week training period developing the skills and working in the environments that are most suited to each client's plans after leaving the Leader Dog campus as a handler and guide dog team.

We provide a safe, clean and comfortable setting for training to take place with 24-hour assistance available for personal needs.

Accommodations and meals are provided free of charge. The Polk Residence and Training Center is home to all clients in on-campus training. You will have a private room and bathroom equipped with a full-size bed, desk and chair, small refrigerator, television, internet access, dog bed, temperature controls and direct access to a secure outdoor area. The residence center is furnished with multiple lounges, a fitness area, dog grooming stations, and a library with books on tape, Braille materials and computers with internet access. Residence staff are available around the clock to assist with your personal needs.

You'll spend a lot of time outdoors and walking. Pack clothing suited to Michigan’s changing climate and seasonal differences (hats, boots and gloves are a good idea October–April) and shoes you are comfortable walking in. Comfort and convenience should be the priority.

Leader Dogs for the Blind pays for public transportation to and from our campus for all clients traveling within the United States and Canada. Accepted clients will be contacted by Leader Dog's travel agency to make your travel arrangements. The agency will provide your travel details to Leader Dog so that we can plan for your arrival accordingly.

Please note: While Leader Dog will pay for public transportation by plane, train or bus, plane travel is the preferred method for clients traveling with a guide dog—especially for trips longer than six hours.

When you arrive at Leader Dog’s campus, we will review important preparatory material, provide additional information, sign needed paperwork and give you a tour of the residence center. This is a good time to ask questions about our campus, your training and what's coming up in the days ahead.

Our wonderful kitchen staff will make sure that you're ready to tackle every day of training fueled by good food. If you follow a special diet or have any restrictions, we will work with you to ensure that your needs are met.

You’ll be with us for three weeks. Your training starts the morning after you arrive. The first few training sessions with your guide dog mobility instructor are called Juno training. This is when your instructor plays the role of a dog, referred to as “Juno.” Juno walks with your instructor will help them learn about your travel situations, orientation and mobility skills, walking pace and lifestyle so they can select the best dog match for you.

Two days after your arrival is “Issue Day,” when you receive your new Leader Dog!

Our instructors spend four months training class-ready dogs and are now here to teach you to be a successful Leader Dog handler. Please keep an open mind and be willing to try new ideas during training. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and be ready to learn new skills during every training session.

We expect you to progress to a level that empowers both you and your Leader Dog to travel safely. There are no tests that decide whether you pass or fail. Your instructor will expect you to work at your own pace and abilities and to improve your skills during training.

You'll receive detailed information on what to expect when you return home with your Leader Dog. Your dog will need time to adjust to its new home environment. It will be important to refer back to your training to assist your dog during the transition.

Generally, it takes six months to a year for you and your Leader Dog to become an effective team.

You have challenged yourself by deciding to get a guide dog and we're here to help you meet your goals!

Coming to Leader Dog for a new dog may be a difficult and emotional time for returning clients. We offer a transition/grief session for any returning clients who feel it may be helpful.

We respect the firsthand knowledge and accomplishments of our returning clients. Please remember that your new dog requires you to recognize its needs and to keep an open mind (and heart) as you progress through training. Your new dog will be different than your previous dog, but over time you will build your relationship together. If you need additional support during class, please let your instructor know.

Returning clients are role models for new clients and will have some valuable stories and memories to share about working with a guide dog. If you are a returning client, please help to support the new clients through their first experience with a Leader Dog.

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