From what age are you allowed to receive a Guide Dog?
A proper work of a Guide Dog requires cooperation between a vision impaired person and a Guide Dog trained for him/her. The leader in that team is a person. It means that person should be psychologically and physically able to control the dog. It happens at a different age for different people. Usually, we train dogs for 18 years olds or older. Exceptions happen but we make decisions individually. A transfer of a Guide Dog to an underage person requires a written permission of his/her parents (guardians).
Vision impaired children can participate in our Sunny Dog classes where they will receive age appropriate practical skills of orienteering and walking with a dog. In the future, when they receive a Guide Dog such skills will be very useful for them.

How dos the Center obtain dogs?
We purchase dogs from individuals through canine organizations as well as through organizations that work with dogs. Any adult owning a dog can sell it to us if he/she needs to give it away.
In exceptional situations we can train a dog owned by a vision impaired person provided that it successfully passes our tests.
Not all dogs have the necessary Guide Dog or Therapy Dog qualities, that’s why all dogs offered to us have to pass rigorous tests. You can learn more about it in “We Purchase Dogs”.

What dog breeds do you use?
We use Labradors and Golden Retrievers.

What requirements are there for the Guide Dogs?
First of all, a future Guide Dog should have a stable nervous system that allows to train and effectively use it in work without any damage to the dog. It should be stable, calm towards people and animals, and not show any aggression. It should not react to loud noises, not be afraid of public transport, not suffer from motion sickness during trips. The dog should be healthy and in good physical shape. You can read more details about it in “We Purchase Dogs”.

How log does it take to train a Guide Dog?
An adult dog (aged 1 year or older) is fully trained in 5-8 months.

Is it possible to train a Guide Dog at its future owner’s home address?
Training and transfer of Guide Dogs is conducted in our Center in a town of Zheleznodorozhny, Moscow Region. We can give additional training for the habitants of Moscow and Moscow Region after the dog has been transferred at their home address.

Do you prefer female or male dogs for the Guide Dog training?
We use both female and male dogs. Labradors can be of different sizes so we can chose either male of female dog corresponding to a height of a vision impaired person, as well as his/her character and needs. We select each dog individually for each vision impaired person. Since all dogs are sterilised its sex does not really matter.

Can dogs identify width and height?
Yes, our dogs are trained to identify width and height of a passage with the dimensions of the person and Guide Dog pair which allows the Guide Dog to safely lead the vision impaired person among other people, transport and various obstacles along their way. The dogs are also taught to identify height that would allow them to lead a person and avoid hitting overhanging obstacles.

How can a dog decide when to cross the road?
In reality a dog does not make a decision whether it is safe to cross the road. A vision impaired person is taught to use his/her hearing to identify whether there’s traffic or asks passers-by for help. Some road crossings have special auditory signals that help vision impaired persons to move across. In general, a person finds out whether a car is moving or stopped and commands “go” to the dog to cross the road. An additional signal for drivers is a white cane lifted up to shoulder level by the vision impaired person. The decision is made by a person but with experience some dogs help their vision impaired owners to make decisions. We do not recommend our clients to fully rely on a dog when crossing the road mainly because of unpredictable behaviour of drivers.

How does a Guide Dog know where a person wants to go?
Usually vision impaired persons tell their Guide Dogs where to go. Guide Dogs are taught to memorise routs. After a trained dog walks the route a few times it will remember it. Usually vision impaired people name their frequent routes that the dog memorises when learning them. In the future the dog will choose the route when it hears its name. Dogs are able to remember their routes for a long time and to memorize tens of such routes. We have many times heard from the Guide Dog owners that their dogs remembered an exact door or a building even when they haven’t been there for over a year. If a vision impaired person wants to walk a new route, he/she helps the dog by giving commands “right”, “left”, “straight” by finding the route independently or asking passers-by for help. On such independent trips the task before the Guide Dog is to follow commands and to warn the vision impaired persons of all obstacles in their way.

Are Guide Dogs allowed to go in public transport?
According to Russian law a Guide Dog accompanying its vision impaired owner is entitled to a free pass on any type of a public transport, as well as on trains and in passenger compartments of planes. Guide Dogs are entitled free access to all public places, including shops, restaurants, theatres and hotels.

How long is a working life of a Guide Dog?
Despite common opinion the life expectancy of a Guide Dog is no shorter than of any other dog. As for its working life it depends on a dog, just like people’s working life.

Are Guide Dogs and vision impaired people always compatible?
We select dogs individually for each vision impaired person that’s why they are rarely incompatible. If we find out that a Guide Dog is completely incompatible with a particular vision impaired person, we train another dog for him/her.

Do Guide Dogs behave like ordinary pets?
Yes, Guide Dogs work only when they need to, at all other time they behave like ordinary pets. They play, have fun, sleep, go or walks, and are even naughty at times.

Can a stranger pat a Guide Dog?
When a Guide Dog is working (in its breast-band) it concentrates on the safety of a vision impaired person. It is very important to remember that you should never give a treat to a working Guide Dog or to pat it when it is working. It may distract the dog and it may make a mistake dangerous for its blind owner.
At another time, when the Guide Dog is not working and with its owner’s permission, you can pat it.

What should I do if I find a dog who I think is a Guide Dog?
The first sign is a special Guide Dog breast-band. The breast-band should have a special sign “Guide Dog” and/or a Red Cross sign. The breast-band has a hard handle for the vision impaired person to hold.
The second sign is a branding mark. Dogs are branded in an ear or in a groin and consists of letters and numbers. Please notify the branding mark to a Guide Dog training school (there are only 2 in the Moscow Region: our Centre and a Guide Dog school of the Russian Organisation for the Blind) and we will be able to locate it in our data base.

Do all dogs that have past the initial testing become Guide Dogs or Therapy Dogs?
Unfortunately, not. During the Guide Dog training a dog can show some negative peculiarities that are incompatible with work of a Guide Dog or a Therapy Dog. Usually we find a family for such a dog where it becomes a pet.

How much do vision impaired people pay for dogs?
All our services, including Guide Dog training and classes for children with special needs, are provided free of charge.

How much does Guide Dog training cost?
Guide Dog training consists of many parts. Our most significant expenses are: dogs purchase, food and upkeep during training, veterinary services, dog trainers’ salaries.
It comes up to around 350 thousand Roubles.

Where does the Centre get money from?
Our Centre exists on charitable donations. Among our sponsors are small and large companies and individuals. Since 2012 our Centre has been receiving subsidies from the federal budget.

What part of donations is used for administrative expenses?
A minimal amount of all donations received is spent on administrative expenses (such as rent and dog cares’ salaries) necessary for the existence of our organisation, no more than 20%.