Guiding Eyes for the Blind

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Guiding Eyes for the Blind
TypeNot-for-profit corporation
HeadquartersYorktown Heights, New York, US
Donald Z. Kauth
President and CEO
Thomas A. Panek

Guiding Eyes for the Blind is a non-profit school based in Yorktown Heights, New York that trains guide dogs to aid people who are visually impaired. It also operates a canine development center in Patterson, New York, and a training site in White Plains, New York.[1] It was the first guide dog training school to be accredited by the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped.


Guiding Eyes for the Blind was founded in 1954 by Donald Z. Kauth in a 19th-century farmhouse. Since then, it has graduated over 7,300 guide dog teams and placed 61 service dogs in homes with families with autistic people. All guide dogs are provided to recipients free of charge.

In 1966 Guiding Eyes began breeding their own dogs, and currently breeds more than 90% of the dogs used by the school.[2]

The Canine Development Center (CDC), located in Patterson, New York, is where guide dogs begin their careers. The center's activities include breeding, birthing, socializing, screening, and placing high-potential puppies in puppy-raising homes. Dogs are bred through selective breeding, aiming to maximize qualities required for a working guide dog and minimize health problems that could disrupt or shorten a guide dog's working years.

There are approximately 500 puppies bred at Guiding Eyes each year, half of which become working dogs.[citation needed] The training center also developed a curriculum and training program for those students with multiple disabilities such as deafness or orthopedic problems, in addition to their visual impairment. The Special Needs Program gives selected guide dogs additional training designed for a specific students' unique requirements.[3]

In 2007, the Canine Development Center staff engaged in extensive research in puppy training. Guiding Eyes also acquired an in-house Veterinary Magnetic Resonance Imaging Machine (MRI).[4] In 2011, Guiding Eyes launched its One Step Ahead campaign, a fundraising drive to raise $8 million to build a world-class puppy training academy on its Patterson property.[4]


Guiding Eyes for the Blind breeds Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds.[5] The most commonly used breed is the Labrador Retriever. Most of the dogs are bred from their breeding colony located in Patterson, New York. Dogs are bred for health, confidence, and temperament. The breeding program of Guiding Eyes for the Blind began in 1966.

Dogs are neutered or spayed when they go back to Guiding Eyes. They are then evaluated and the highest quality dogs are selected to carry on their lines and raise future generations of guide dogs. The dogs undergo further evaluation, including an extensive medical exam, to determine if they are suitable candidates for the breeding program, focusing on hip quality and behavior. In addition to examining the dog, its siblings' progress and health is considered as well, with the dogs that are considered as suitable candidates continuing on to Guide Dog training.[6] The school has had success with the breeding of Labrador Retrievers, with their dogs showing a lower incidence of hip dysplasia than regular Labrador Retrievers.[citation needed]

A study done by Cornell University Veterinary School looked at 1,498 dogs from Guiding Eyes for the Blind. The study took measurements of hip joint quality. This included 1,236 connected dogs over 17 generations from a particular male dog. Over half of the Labrador Retrievers were bred at the Guiding Eyes for the Blind facility. Dogs with more accurate breeding values produced more progeny, with clustering of breeding values with higher accuracy indicative of better hip joint confirmation. Overall the study concluded that the selection of dogs for hip joint quality resulted in genetic improvement predominantly in the last 10 to 15 years [citation needed].

Dog Raising[edit]

First 9 weeks[edit]

Dog training begins immediately after a guide dog is born. The dogs are born in the Whelping Kennel facility of Guiding Eyes for the Blind (GEB), located in Patterson, New York. The first nine weeks of guide dog training consist of exposure to various environments and experiences to help with their emotional and intellectual development. Volunteers interact with the dogs on a daily basis fostering the bond that must be present between guide dogs and their human companions.[5] In addition, massages are performed on the puppies to help the dogs become familiar with being handled and improve the dogs' health. [citation needed]

Aside from socialization, the dogs are also taught a few basic commands and guide dog etiquette, such as crate and toileting etiquette. The socializers introduce the dogs to the crate early on so that they are familiar with itfocusing on getting the dogs to have a positive attitude towards the crate. The dogs are also house trained and taught to alert their human companion when they need to urinate or defecate. [6]

9 weeks-18 months[edit]

After the dog reaches anywhere from 7–9 weeks, they are then matched with a volunteer Puppy Raiser screened by GEB. During this period, the dogs go through training that could be classified as extended socialization.[5] The puppy raisers take the dogs home and teach them how a guide dog is supposed to interact with the outside world. More commands are introduced to the dog, including "stand", "down", "stay", "touch", "back", "heel" and "close". Dogs also learn to keep calm, ignore distractions, and obey their masters in all situations.

During this time the dogs learn how to greet other people and how to interact with different social settings. To keep track of a dog's progress as well as their training and their raisers, GEB has puppy classes for the raiser/dog pairs. At these classes, the training methods are enforced and the raiser and dog get to practice the commands in a controlled environment. GEB also provides veterinary care for the dogs. During this time other volunteers will take care of the dogs for a short period of time, exposing them to different environments.[7][8]

Multi-generational fostering[edit]

A 2011 multi-generational volunteer dog foster program at Atlantic Shores in Virginia Beach, Virginia, brings together qualified retirement community residents and elementary school students.[9] The foster puppies live with selected senior citizens in the Atlantic Shores retirement community, where the dogs have early exposure to elevators, sidewalks, ramps, wheelchairs, and sliding doors—elements that mirror the conditions in the second phase, when dogs receive 18 months of formal training.[9][10] Beginning at 11 weeks of age, the dogs go out to local elementary schools, where classes instruct students about the guide dog service and proper interaction with guide dogs. Students also create their own reporting segments and follow the progress of the guide dogs via in class broadcasts on the schools' television feeds.[9]

Formal Training[edit]

After a dog reaches 13–18 months they are returned to Guiding Eyes for an In For Training (IFT) test. This test provides information on how well the dog handles stress without a familiar person to support them. If a dog does not do well on their IFT or if they have had a history of consistent insecurities or poor adaptability with their raisers, they are usually released at this point. Other dogs that pass and show promise are often either re-evaluated or start with the training program.[11] Other dogs will join the Guiding Eyes breeding colony, and become parents to future generations of Guiding Eyes dogs.

It takes roughly four months to train a guide dog, with an additional month to train the new owner with the dog. During this time, dogs increase their command vocabulary with more advanced commands such as "find the crossing" and "find the door". The reason for this type of training is for the dog to be able to use his/her initiative instead of direct obedience.[12] Most of the formal training is done in the natural environment like quiet suburb as well as busy streets and rural areas. The only artificial methods of training involve obstacles and traffic work. The dog learns how to travel to the left and to the right of the object with a preference that the unit (dog and handler) travel to the right so that the dog is between the obstacle and the owner. At this point of training, the dog is in a full harness.[12]

In addition to working on obstacles, there is also traffic work. First, a dog learns to stop at all intersections. The handler then listens whether it is safe to cross or not before giving the command. However, if a car is coming, the dog will disobey the command and wait for the road to be clear before crossing. To ensure that the training is complete, the handler will often go through the process with the dog with a blindfold on to make sure that the dog is really ready for their new handler.[12]

Matching a guide dog to a blind person is arguably the most important part of the entire process. Any blind person can apply for the course; however, they receive an in-depth home interview and then are evaluated based on their physical abilities and personalities before being matched with a dog.[2] The guide dogs and students then meet and spend 26 days at the Yorktown Heights training facility learning to work safely with each other. The four-month process the dogs just went through is approximately repeated, but at a faster pace. At the conclusion of this training, a graduation ceremony is held in celebration of the new partnerships and puppy raisers get to see their dogs become full-fledged guide dogs. After graduation, Guiding Eyes instructors provide follow-up services, as needed, to graduates in order to provide assistance, suggestions and general support as required. The average working life of a dog is 8–10 years. If possible, the dog will live out his life in the home with the handler. Alternately, Guiding Eyes makes sure that retired dogs are placed into loving homes.[2]

Career Change Dogs[edit]

Not every dog who joins the Guiding Eyes program goes on to become a guiding dog. Even dogs who pass their IFTs and go through formal training are sometimes ruled unsuited to become guide dogs. However, some of the personality and temperament traits that make a dog unsuitable for guide dog work are also ideal for detection or patrol work.[11]


Guiding Eyes is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, funded via private donations.[13] The school does not charge tuition; rather, the dogs, training, students' room and board for 26 days and a follow-up support are provided at no cost to the student.[13]

According to Charity Navigator, GEB had income of $19 million for fiscal year 2009/2010 and assets of $50 million.[14] GEB is an accredited BBB organization[15] and has received a 54.57 rating, or three of four possible stars, at Charity Navigator, not meeting criteria for transparency related to the process of determining compensation of the CEO and not meeting criteria for audited financials.[14]

GEB's biggest fundraiser is an annual golf tournament which has been hosted for the past six years by Eli Manning, quarterback for the New York Giants.[16] The tournament was founded by former professional golfer and golf broadcaster Ken Venturi in 1977 and each year awards the Corcoran Cup, named after Fred Corcoran.[16][17] GEB's founder, Don Kauth, had encouraged Richard "Dick" Ryan to start a golf tournament. Ryan, an attorney, was GEB's board chairman and represented Augusta National Golf Club. Ryan agreed, naming the tournament after his business partner, Corcoran.[18] The golf tournament, sponsored by Entergy, Pepsi and others, has raised over $7 million for Guiding Eyes since its creation in 1977.[16]

Since 2008, Guiding Eyes has operated an e-storefront with Lands' End via that company's Business Outfitters division.[19] Customers can order clothing embroidered with logos associated with the dog breeds bred and trained by Guiding Eyes in their work: yellow and black Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds. The artwork was produced by a company in Norwalk, Connecticut, TFI/Envision.[19]

In 2010, Guiding Eyes initiated expansion of its canine development center from 16,000 square feet to 30,000 square feet in a three-phase $7.8 million construction project.[20] The first phase included a whelping kennel and outdoor work area, the second phase (projected for 2013) will include a breeding and puppy socialization kennel, and the third phase will include a 1,500-square foot veterinary hospital.[20]

CharityWatch rates Guiding Eyes for the Blind a "B" grade.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Guiding Eyes for the Blind – Leading Guide Dog School – Puppy Raising Archived 2008-11-23 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b c "About Guiding Eyes for the Blind".
  3. ^ "About Us".
  4. ^ a b "Guiding Eyes for the Blind 2009 Annual Report" (PDF).
  5. ^ a b c "Fact Sheet : Guiding Eyes for the Blind".
  6. ^ a b "Guiding Eyes: Questions?". Archived from the original on 2012-04-30. Retrieved 2012-10-01.
  7. ^ "Cornellians Train Future Guide Dogs". Cornell Sun, NOVEMBER 20, 2009. Archived from the original on January 31, 2010. Retrieved October 3, 2012.
  8. ^ "Spotlight on Guide Dogs Provide Eyes". Cornell Sun, SEPTEMBER 8, 2002. Archived from the original on January 19, 2013. Retrieved October 3, 2012.
  9. ^ a b c "Atlantic Shores Seniors to Raise Guide Dog Puppies in Unique Multi-Generational Partnership". PR Newswire, via Sacramento Bee, October 27, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Va. Beach retirement community nurtures guide dogs"., October 30, 2011, Elizabeth Simpson.
  11. ^ a b "Guiding Eyes Alternative Careers".
  12. ^ a b c Peel, B. W. (1975). "The training of guide dogs for the blind". New Zealand Veterinary Journal. 23 (11): 269–272. doi:10.1080/00480169.1975.34257. PMID 1060967.
  13. ^ a b "Teaching Man's Best Eyes to See". The New York Times, March 6, 1996, Alex Witchel. March 6, 1996.
  14. ^ a b "Charity Navigator report: Guiding Eyes for the Blind". Charity Navigator.
  15. ^ "BBB report: Guiding Eyes for the Blind". BBB.
  16. ^ a b c "Giants QB Eli Manning once again headlines Guiding Eyes Classic"., The Journal News, June 9, 2010.
  17. ^ "Guiding Eyes for the Blind's 33rd Annual Golf Classic Scheduled".
  18. ^ "About Fred Corcoran". At that time, Dick Ryan was the Board Chairman of Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Don Kauth, the founder of Guiding Eyes, desperately wanted a PGA tour golf tournament to benefit the guide dog school, but golf was in one of its heydays and tournament beneficiaries needed to stand in line. Instead, Ryan suggested a celebrity Pro-Am tournament that would make blind golfers the "stars" of the event. Jack Ward, a friend of Ryan's and member of Mount Kisco Country Club, signed on as Chairman of the Golf Committee and worked tirelessly to secure sponsors and financial support for the event. At the same time, Dick Ryan suggested they name the trophy for the winning blind golfer after Fred Corcoran, who had recently died, and donated the Corcoran Cup trophy. This was an appropriate remembrance for a long-time resident of Westchester and a man who loved an original idea.
  19. ^ a b "Press Release: Guiding Eyes for the Blind Names Lands' End Official Apparel Provider". Reuters, February 20, 2008. February 20, 2008.[dead link]
  20. ^ a b "Guiding Eyes to break ground Friday on expanded Canine Development Center"., The Journal News, June 9, 2010.
  21. ^ Charity Rating Guide and Watchdog Report, Volume Number 59, December 2011

External links[edit]