Welcome to the first issue of The Guide Dog Gazette; an inside look at the CNIB Guide Dog Program and its' puppies! In this issue, you'll get to learn a little bit more about raising and training future guide dogs from our Guide Dog Program leaders, Karen and Andrew Hanlon. Find out how our first two puppies, Piper and Baker, participated in Toronto's Woofstock festival and get to know a little bit more about Baker in Meet Our Pups.

Guide Dogs: What, How and Why?!

Meet the trainers Q&A


CNIB's Guide Dog Program leaders, Karen and Andrew Hanlon, have more than 30 years' combined experience in training guide dogs. So, why not hit them with some questions about their work? That's exactly what we did!

  1. How do I determine if I am suitable for a guide dog? What kind of questions should we ask ourselves before pursuing?
    Andrew: Do you like dogs? Would your family enjoy having a dog? Will your partner or support network accept that their role will change as you rely on a dog instead of them? Can you cope with the dog care and welfare side of guide dog ownership? Picking up and cleaning up after a dog? Do you need a guide dog or do other people think you need one? Remember there are no silly questions; write down anything and everything you are curious about and involve all family members in that discussion.
  2. Can you be a volunteer puppy raiser if you have vision loss?
    Andrew: If you're living with vision loss and thinking about raising a future guide dog you need to ask yourself the following important questions: Could you make out a dogs facial expression clearly? Could you notice slightly raised eyebrows or ears that are just a little flatter to the head than usual? Could you tell if the dog is turning in circles because it's trying to get comfortable to sleep or because it has to go to the bathroom? These expressions and actions are a good indication of how the dog is feeling and are vital to pick up on when training a future guide dog. 
  3. Is it possible to puppy raise your own future guide dog?
    Andrew: When it comes to using the puppy you helped to raise as your own guide after graduation, the answer is maybe but, probably not. When matching a client with a guide dog there are lots of things to consider: walking speed, size, lifestyle. It's important we match the dog to their very best match and this, unfortunately, might not be you.
  4.  How long is the process from application to bringing a dog home?
    Karen: This is difficult to say right now because the CNIB Guide Dog program is in its infancy. The first puppies in the program will not enter their formal guide dog training until spring 2018 and, if all goes well, qualify as guide dogs in the fall. It will be some time before there are many dogs going through the program, but CNIB is aiming to produce enough dogs in the long term to give Canadian people with a sight loss more options for training with a guide dog and shorter waiting times than they are currently facing in Canada.
  5. How do you match a guide dog with someone who is blind or partially sighted?
    Andrew: There are many factors that come into play. Some very basic ones would be, size of the dog to the size of the client. If the dog is to big the client can have trouble controlling or following the dog. If the dog is too small in relation to the client, the dog can find it difficult to guide effectively. Walking speed, if the client is a fast walker and the dog is naturally very slow this can result in a lot of frustration. Similarly, a dog that is a real fast walker matched with a client who walks slowly is unlikely to work. There isn't much fun being dragged down the street at 100mph. Client choice, the client needs to be happy. If the person wants a female and they get a male of a breed or color of dog they didn't want, it can be frustrating and disappointing.

You can always submit your own questions about training, raising and becoming a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor by finding, following and asking us on Facebook. We can't wait to hear from you!

Socialization is a huge part of future guide dog training and we want you to join us on social media to watch the journeys of our future guide dogs and learn more about the program along the way.

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Who let the dogs out?


Piper and Baker visit Woofstock to teach guide dog etiquette

There were Chihuahuas, Shih Tzus, Rottweilers, Beagles, French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers and two of our favourite Golden Retrievers… Piper and Baker.

CNIB's first two future guide dogs, Piper and Baker, visited the largest dog festival in North America on May 27 and 28th. But, they weren't there just for the free treat samples.

Socialization with people and other dogs in different public settings and situations is a very important part of their initial puppy raising training and what could be better than a festival that draws tens of thousands of dogs and dog lovers? Not to mention, a terrific opportunity to teach Torontonians about proper guide dog etiquette.

Piper and Baker were joined at Woofstock by their puppy raisers, Joan and Margaret, CNIB Guide Dog Program mangers, Andrew and Karen, and CNIB staff. All humans were armed with helpful information and eye-catching handouts to spread the world on guide dog etiquette, on behalf of Piper and Baker.

Do you know how to act or what to do when encountering a guide dog pair in your community? Here are some of the tips that Piper and Baker were sharing at Woofstock:

  • Harness on means hands off. A guide dog in harness means "Please don't distract me. I'm working." Sometimes if the dog is not "working" the user may decide to remove the harness and let you pet their dog. Always ask first.
  • Don't feed them. Especially when guide dogs are working in harness. Offering food to the dog can result in antisocial behaviours such as begging for food and scavenging off the ground.
  • Contain your excitement. Don't encourage excitable play in a guide dog. Guide dogs are given access to public places where other dogs are not permitted, so they must stay calm.
  • Say "hello" another time. If you're walking your pet dog and you approach a guide pair, take your dog away from the guide dog. A guide dog encounter with a pet dog can result in a challenging and sometimes dangerous distraction.

There's so much more to know about guide dog etiquette. Visit cnibguidedogs.ca to get all the tips on how to be a good boy (or girl!) when you encounter a guide dog.

Meet our Pups!

Get to know: Baker


Baker is one of our first future guide dog puppies. He's a full-bred Golden Retriever and is currently six-months-old. His favourite toys are a large stuffed caterpillar and his purple blanket that came with him from Australia. The way to his heart is with a crunchy, delicious Milk Bone biscuit. He likes road trips with his puppy raiser family to places such as Kingston, ON and has taken several trips to Fergus, ON.  His favorite trip was to CNIB's Lake Joe in Muskoka, ON. Baker really dislikes the garden hose; whether it's on or off keep it away from him! Every dog has their quirks and Baker's is that he's most comfortable laying on his back with his legs up in the air. Whatever makes you happy, buddy!

Want to help CNIB Guide Dogs? Visit cnibguidedogs.ca to:

  1. Make a donation. Donations to the CNIB Guide Dog Program cover food, grooming, vet visits and all other doggie needs.
  2. Volunteer. A guide dog's journey starts with a volunteer puppy raiser who teaches them how to be a "good boy" (or girl).
  3. Advocate. Share guide dog etiquette tips, and learn about the rights of guide dog users.