Q. When was the South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind (GDA) established?
A. GDA was established in 1953 to train Guide Dogs. Service Dogs and Autism Support Dogs have been trained since 1990. The College of Orientation and Mobility was established in 1974.
Q. How long does it take to train a working dog?
A. The actual training is around 6 to 9 months but GDA is responsible for the puppy from the moment it is born. Working dog training commences at around 12 months, depending on the breed. Therefore the entire training process takes an average of 18 to 24 months.
Q. How much does it cost to train a working dog?
A. It costs in excess of hundreds of thousands of Rands to produce a qualified working dog, from puppy to graduation. In order to make sponsorships achievable for our valued partners, we have created sponsorship packages which start from R 5,000.
Q. Do you breed your own dogs?
A. Yes, we breed Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, cross Labrador/Golden Retrievers and German Shepherd Dogs.
Q. How much does a person who is visually impaired contribute towards the cost of the training?
A. We want working dogs to be available to any person regardless of their financial position. Working dog owners need to be able to afford to care for a working dog on a monthly basis. The working dog owner is responsible for the feeding and routine veterinary care of the dog. The working dog owner pays R205 which includes a trained working dog, the training/accommodation and equipment.
Q. Does the applicant have to be totally blind to qualify for a Guide Dog?
A. No, many people who have residual vision still benefit from using a mobility aid such as a Guide Dog or white cane (also known as a long cane).
Q. How is the working dog thanked for doing a good job?
A. Working dogs enjoy affection from their owners. Physical touch is very rewarding as is vocal praise. Working dogs often receive a small titbit from their owner after completing requested tasks.
Q. Are you allowed to talk to or touch a working dog?
A. Always ask the owner if you may touch or talk to the dog.
Q. Are you allowed to feed a working dog?
A. No. Working dogs should only be fed by their owner. The owner is aware of the amount and type of food that the dog should be eating. Some dogs have allergies and can only eat specific diets.
Q. Is a working dog on duty 24/7?
A. No, when the working dog is off duty then the harness/jacket is removed and the dog behaves as a normal pet would. Most working dogs are off duty for a large part of the day. They are only on duty when they are guiding their owner or performing tasks.
Q. How long can a working dog work for before retirement?
A. Usually about 8 – 10 years, but this varies according to the health of the working dog and the normal aging process.
Q. What happens if the working dog and owner are faced with a problem that requires immediate intervention?
A. An Instructor from S A Guide-Dogs Association will visit the partnership within 24 hours no matter where they live in South Africa.
Q. What happens to working dogs when they are too old to work?
A. They retire, usually staying with the owner. If this is not possible GDA will find a loving home for the retired dog.
Q. Can the public visit the GDA training centre?
A. Yes, as individuals or groups. We have regular Graduation Days where we are able to accommodate visitors. Unfortunately, we can’t accommodate ad hoc visitors. Please telephone (011 705 3512) or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) to find out when we have a Graduation Day and book your visit.
Q. Are there any other Guide Dog centres in Africa?
A. No, GDA is the only training centre in Africa.
Q. Does GDA receive any form of assistance from the government?
A. No, all our funds come from donations and our own fundraising initiatives.
Q. Who is the owner of the working dog?
A. The working dog is owned by a person who is differently-abled. GDA enters into a contract with the owner and can re-purchase the working dog under certain specified conditions. GDA visits the dog and owner on an annual basis for the life of the dog and is available to offer advice and assistance.
If there are any other questions you would like to ask us please feel free to contact Vernon Tutton (Executive Director) VernonT@guidedog.org.za