Dog Guide Etiquette and General Information
When a Dog Guide is wearing their vest, they are working and should not be petted. It is important not to distract a working dog as this could be dangerous for their person. Dog Guides do get time in their day to play and get belly rubs, when their vest is off. Please always check with their handler first.
As part of our intensive training program, our dogs and their clients must pass a public access test. This enables them to exercise their public access rights, essentially allowing the assistance dog to go anywhere their handler goes. This ensures our clients can fully rely on the support of their assistance dog in every aspect of their daily living.
Public access laws can vary by province.
For more information: https://assistancedogsinternational.org/resources/public-access-laws-canada/
Dog Guide Training
We do not train dogs to assist with PTSD, psychiatric needs or emotional support. Our school focuses on providing highly trained Dog Guides in the following seven programs: hearing, vision, service, diabetic alert, autism assistance, seizure response and facility support.
The dogs that we train, certify and match come through our breeding program. We do not train or certify individuals with their pet dogs.
We train golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers and standard poodles. These breeds exhibit the best combination of stability, intelligence and willingness to work. These dogs are alert, confident, loyal and are easy to train to perform a variety of tasks. We specifically train standard poodles for clients who have allergies, since this breed is hypo-allergenic.
Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides has our own breeding program. For the first year, our pups are taken in by foster families who socialize the dog and provide basic obedience training. At about one year old, the dog returns to Oakville and begins formalized Dog Guide training. During that time, we assess which program the dog may be best suited for, and start program specific training. When a Dog Guide is fully trained, they are matched with an applicant. The pair meet and train for up to 3 weeks with our Program Instructors in Oakville to prepare them for their future life together.
After a full and rewarding career, it’s time for our Dog Guides to enjoy retirement. Barring any health concerns, our Dog Guides typically retire around 8-10 years old. Many of these dogs are then adopted as a pet by their client or a family member or friend. Otherwise, they are placed in our Career Change program for external adoption. Many Dog Guide clients will then reapply for a new successor dog to support them with their continued needs, helping them maintain their confidence and independence.
Dog Guide Placement
It costs $35,000 to breed, train and match a Dog Guide, however all Dog Guides are provided at no cost to qualified applicants. The Lions Foundation receives no government funding, relying on the support of Lions Clubs and the generosity of donors to be able to provide Canadians living with disabilities a Dog Guide at no cost and supporting them in their journey together.
COVID lockdowns and restrictions created numerous challenges and delays. The current wait for approved applicants is two years. Applications are only being accepted for Facility Support Dog Guides. We hope to begin to accept new applications in all other programs in the near future. We look forward to the opening of our new building (targeted for 2025), which will allow us to serve more people and raise and train more dogs. Learn more about how you can be part of the The Difference (link to new building info).
After a client is accepted, the next step is to find a dog that is a good match for them. Although every dog is highly trained, not every dog will match every client and their needs. In order to maximize each client’s chance of success, we must consider matching the clients needs, activity level, personality and a host of other factors.
Each of our 7 programs requires very different skills from our Dog Guides, so we do not cross train between programs. If you meet the criteria for more than one of our programs, our staff will assess your needs and may reach out to discuss which program would be best suited to you.
The primary handler of the dog needs to be the person who the Dog Guide is supporting. The applicant needs to be able to give commands, reward the dog, problem solve any behaviours that arise, and maintain their training. All of this is important to form a strong bond and maximize the team’s chance for success.