Facts about our guide dogs

Blind Foundation guide dogs give people who are blind or have low vision freedom and independence. They help people to get around safely and confidently. They also make wonderful companions.

The Blind Foundation team often get asked questions from people wanting facts about guide dogs.  Here are some facts about the most commonly asked about topics.

Breeds of guide dogs

At the Blind Foundation Guide Dog centre, we mainly breed Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and purpose-bred first crosses.  Known for their intelligence and steady, friendly nature, these breeds make excellent guide dogs.

We also breed German Shepherds & Standard Poodles in small numbers. What’s interesting about Standard Poodles is they may be used in a home where someone is allergic to dog hair.

The life of a guide dog

They start life as adorable puppies with a big future ahead of them. Blind Foundation puppies will hopefully grow into guide dog to act as the eyes for many Kiwis who are blind or have low vision.   Their five key phases of their life are:

  • Conception: Specially selected brood bitches and stud dogs are mated through the dedicated Blind Foundation Guide Dog breeding programme.
  • Socialisation: At approximately 9 weeks of age, each puppy is placed with a wonderful volunteer Puppy Walker.  Puppy Walkers help pups develop the confidence and behaviour needed for the future. They introduce the puppies to situations guide dogs may face.
  • Training: After around 12 months with a Puppy Walker, the budding guide dog returns to the Blind Foundation Guide Dog centre for six months’ intensive training and assessment.
  • Working: once a dog is trained, they’re matched with a person who is blind or has low vision, who becomes their handler.   Together as a team, they can work for up to 9 years before the guide dog retires.
  • Retiring:  once a dog retires, they enjoy a leisurely life.  Often, that’s with the people who have played an important part in the dog’s life such as the handler or Puppy Walker.  Sometimes that’s with a new family.

Where can guide dogs go?

Guide dogs can go to most public places, including restaurants, offices, clinics, hospitals, shops, cinemas & hotels.  They can also travel on public transport – including buses, planes, ferries, ships, trains, taxis and shuttles.

These rights are outlined in the Human Rights Act (1993) and the Dog Control Act (1996).

There are some places a guide dog can’t go.  These include some animal enclosures at zoos and hospital departments such as burns units, oncology and intensive care wards.

Like a person, guide dogs need to be well behaved wherever they are. Although the dogs are legally entitled to go anywhere with a person who’s blind or has low vision, other people sometimes challenge that.   It helps if the dogs are so well behaved they’re not noticed. For any dog to be on its best behaviour, they can’t be distracted by people wanting to pat or talk while the dog’s working.

Can I pat a guide dog?

Please don’t distract any guide dog by patting them when they are with a person who’s blind or has low vision (their ‘handler’). The dog might lose their concentration – putting the person in potential danger.

Passers-by often want to pat or approach a guide dog. Other distractions include offering the dog food, talking to the dog or making noises.

As well as potentially putting the handler in harm’s way, it can put the guide dog in danger too. Playing with the dog or feeding it treats it doesn’t usually eat could lead them to become ill or lame.

Every person’s different and some guide dog handlers might be happy for you to pat their dog, but please ask first.  If the person says no, please respect their choice.

If you’d like to ask questions, please check if the person has time.  Guide dog handlers are often approached by people, but don’t always have time to stop and chat.

International Accreditation

Blind Foundation Guide Dogs is accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF).  This means our processes, systems and buildings – and importantly dogs – are of a world-class standard.

Volunteer and help a guide dog

Find out more about how you can volunteer and help a guide dog.

How do I adopt a guide dog?

Sometimes guide dogs need a change of career. Usually this is because they retire from working as a guide dog for health reasons or through old age. Younger dogs may be withdrawn from the training programme if they are not suitable to work as guide dogs.

This is when the dogs are placed in new, permanent homes where they will be well looked after and thought of as one of the family. With the right home environment, these dogs can make wonderful pets.

If you would like to apply to adopt a Blind Foundation puppy or guide dog, please give us a call on (09) 269 0400 or email gds@blindfoundation.org.nz.  We can pop an adoption pack in the post or email one to you.

sally in her guide dog red coat

More fun facts from our puppies

Dogs sitting under a table
Where can guide dogs go?
Blind Foundation Guide Dogs are legally allowed to access all public spaces and buildings.  All guide dogs are given their
Golden retriever puppy with soft toys
Play time with guide dogs
We often get members of the public commenting that guide dogs look bored. A few others will comment that they
Guide dog in training squatting to poo
Who picks up guide dog poop?
This is one of those questions that seem to crop up a lot! The answer is simple; their handler does.