Throughout all areas of client services, the organisation must ensure the integrity, security and controlled access to client’s records and other confidential data.  

A) Applicant services 

1. Application process/pack

Emerging organisations must develop a confidential, timely, consistent and responsive process to deal with each enquiry. The application package needs to be developed and available in a variety of formats, such as Braille, tape, large print, audio, email attachments, including: 

  • Application form – designed to elicit adequate information in terms of potential applicant suitability.  
  • Medical form, including applicant confidentiality release. 
  • Agency information, including a description of the applicant, student and graduate process, 
  • Agreement – if applicable. 
  • Grievance and appeals process. Organisations must have a fair and transparent process for clients or applicants to appeal decisions relating to their case. They must also have a grievance procedure for clients or applicants who feel they have not been treated fairly by the organisation. Both grievance and appeal processes must be fair and transparent, with an assurance that making an appeal or complaint will not impact any future applications.

2. Applicant interview

Once the completed application form is returned, an appointment is made for the initial interview – an information sharing session, which may take 2+ hours. All relevant details must be recorded.

3. Applicant assessment

If the potential applicant would like to progress their application, and the organisation is supportive, a mutually agreeable date for an assessment is set within a reasonable time frame, for instance 1 month from the original contact date and on receipt of the completed medical and medical release forms, along with any other relevant supporting documentation. The assessment process usually takes 2+ hours, is conducted in the home and / or work environment and may take more than one visit/session. 

Applicant interviews and practical assessments should ideally be conducted by a qualified Guide Dog Mobility Instructor (GDMI), Orientation and Mobility Instructor (O&M) or other professionals who have completed a Guide Dog training programme for O&M instructors. The assessment must determine that the applicant has: 

  • Motivation to train and work with a guide dog on a long-term basis, 
  • Ability to achieve and maintain the leadership role in the blind person/guide dog relationship, 
  • Physical ability to manage the matched guide dog, 
  • Functional orientation to the routes and destinations that the applicant travels to, including the required traffic crossing locations, 
  • Vision reduced to the extent that the applicant is dependent on sighted assistance or a primary mobility aid for their safe and effective travel, 
  • Sufficient work load for the guide dog to maintain its safe guiding skills, 
  • Supportive and safe home, work and social environment, 
  • Access to the required resource to maintain the guide dog’s ongoing well-being – health  

4. Accepted applicant – notification

If the applicant is assessed as being suitable, they must be advised of acceptance in a format accessible to them, including: 

  • Any possible referral to other agencies/services,; 
  • Confirmation of the instruction venue and dates, if possible;
  • Pre–instruction information/programme, if applicable;
  • Instruction programme outline. 

5. Unsuccessful applicant – notification

If the applicant is assessed as being unsuitable, the applicant must be given reasons for non-acceptance in a format accessible to them. Where the applicant is not ready but further professional training, support or experience could bring the person to a level of readiness, appropriate referrals must be provided by way of mutual agreement. 

If the applicant does not accept the reasons given, and requests re-consideration, the internal and /or external appeals process must be provided. 

6. Applicants seeking successor dogs

Where the applicant is applying to the same organisation for a replacement guide dog: 

  • The application should be anticipated with a suitable successor dog available ASAP to reduce the waiting time, 
  • Some of the above process relating to a first-time applicant may be modified,  
  • An updated completed medical report is essential. 


B) Client services – matching and training 

1. Matching

Each applicant must be matched to the most suitable fully trained dog on the waiting list, with replacement or special needs applicants, taking priority. During the final weeks of training or at an earlier stage if required, specific training shall be undertaken to prepare the dog for the applicant’s particular requirements, e.g. dual sensory loss (deaf/blind). It is useful to have a backup dog available that closely matches, in case the potential new team are unsuccessful. 

Careful consideration should be given to each applicant / guide dog match. This involves identifying the following client / guide dog compatibilities including, but not limited to, the following elements: 

  • Orientation and mobility skills; 
  • Physical compatibility such as size, walking speed and gait; 
  • Personality/temperament;
  • Social/home environments; 
  • Workplace/educational environments;
  • Travel routes such as number of different routes and their duration;
  • Travel environment such as rural/urban/city/public transport;
  • Ability to meet dogs’ welfare needs. 


2. Training the Student / Guide Dog team – course of instruction

2.1 Location  

Training can take place: 

  • In a designated residential facility, living in 24 hours per day, or as a day student (in residence), 
  • From the student’s home (in-home or domiciliary), 
  • As a combination of residential and in-home training. 

2.2 Instruction – practice and theory 

Stage 1: Pre-guide dog team training and student assessment 

Teach students: The student must receive lectures and guiding exercises, using a handle or harness without the dog present to learn: 

  • Following skills, 
  • Techniques of control, 
  • Use of vocal intonation and control, 
  • Basic handling techniques, 
  • Change of direction skills, 
  • Balance, body and foot movements skills, 
  • Use of equipment. 

Assess the students’: 

  • Exercise tolerance, 
  • Ability to learn and implement skills, 
  • Preferred walking speed, 
  • Reflexes, 
  • Residual vision, 
  • Orientation skills, 
  • For replacement dog handlers, modify any non-standard handling techniques. with. 

Once completed, confirm the matching with the most suitable guide dog. it is desirable to have an additional dog prepared that would be a suitable match if necessary. . 


Stage 2: Working with the student and the dog

When training a student and dog together they will need close supervision initially. Training requires planning and should progress from simple environments where the primary requirement is that the dog stops at kerbs or stairs, to more complex environments with narrow clearances, moving traffic, crowded pedestrian areas requiring complex decision making.

The instructor will introduce dog and student to each other: to maximise the outcome of the initial introduction, the student and matched dog must meet in a controlled positive environment. 

Skills to teach: all the following core theoretical and practical skills must be taught, ensuring sufficient instruction, experience and reinforcement to achieve safe, effective and efficient standard of independent travel: 

  • Basic dog handling and control techniques, 
  • Use of positive reinforcement, praise, 
  • Dog care and maintenance, feeding, grooming – including health check, toileting, access to water, sleeping arrangements, 
  • Basic obedience exercises – heel, sit, down, stand, stay, stop and come, 
  • Consistent dog handling practice, including putting on the collar, leash and harness,  
  • Understanding the mind of the dog, pack hierarchy, social behaviour and language, 
  • Basic linguistically appropriate cues and concepts, such as: forward, stop, left, right, back, follow (if applicable), find the way, 
  • Use of voice – changes in intonation, 
  • Anticipation and management of distractions, 
  • Kerb and road crossing procedures, 
  • Traffic procedures and reinforcement technique, Please refer to IGDF Standard 5.2.9 
  • Obstacle avoidance – static and dynamic (such as pedestrians), including head height obstacles, 
  • Steps, lifts, escalators, travelators, flat moving walkways, 
  • Finding or locating objectives, such as doors, seats, stairs etc  
  • Many organisations teach their clients a targeting technique which allows them to develop their own destinations with the dog. 
  • Public transport – bus, train, tram, taxi, ferry, aircraft – including airport travel – as required, getting in and out of vehicles, and safe positioning of the dog,  
  • Residential, semi business, city and rural travel (including unsealed paths and travel on the side of road without footpaths/sidewalks), 
  • Night travel, including traffic work 
  • Navigating malls, shops and supermarkets, including locating the entrance and exit. Positioning dogs in cafes, restaurants, at counters and in public toilets.
  • Follow procedure (if taught in dog training), 
  • Introducing the guide dog to other dogs, 
  • Introducing the guide dog to new environments, 
  • Off-leash exercise and recall, 
  • Dog toileting, including leash relieving, safe disposal of faeces and use of toilet harness if applicable 
  • Ongoing graduate responsibility re guide dog health and welfare, 
  • Public relations role, information concerning access legislation re public places and self advocacy – including how to make bookings for restaurants, motels, travel, etc; quarantine regulations.  

It is recommended that students with remaining (particularly) central vision should have the experience of traveling without vision for short periods of time from an early point in their learning experience. This is to prepare them and their dogs for times when their remaining vision is non-functional such as at night, in glare, or if their vision loss progresses. This can be accomplished by having students close their eyes for short distances or blocks, or by the use of vision blocking glasses. 


D) Client/Graduate services

1. Post class follow-up

If instruction was provided in a residential facility, there may be occasions when immediate post class follow up is warranted. This could provide support to the team during the important phase of transitioning to their home area. 

2. Routine follow-up

All organisations must maintain contact and follow-up graduates using an agreed format, which can be via any form of communication (e.g. telephone call, e-mail, txt, letter) and preferably by a regular personal visit of a qualified GDMI. This is to ensure the safe and effective travel of the client / guide dog team and the health and temperamental well-being of the guide dog. 

3. Emergency aftercare

Organisations must provide an emergency follow-up/aftercare telephone service upon client’s request for assistance. In circumstances where the safety of the client / guide dog team may be compromised or the physical / temperamental well-being of the guide dog is at risk, the organisation must arrange a personal, professional visit by a qualified staff member. This visit to the client / guide dog team must be within a time frame that reflects the nature of the request for emergency follow up / aftercare. A referral to other professionals must be provided if necessary, e.g. the veterinarian where health problems are evident. 

4. Retirement of, and successor guide dogs

Retirement of a guide dog and the subsequent change over to a new dog can be a very challenging period for clients. It needs planning and communication for the change to be as smooth and stress free as possible for both the client and the dogs. 

Organisations must have a policy in place regarding working dogs to be retired and their replacements. The policy should reflect the need of dogs for acceptable period of retirement, which can vary depending on individual dog, especially its health and workload during working life. Veterinarian should be involved in the decision on the retirement of a guide dog if the reasons are health related. The policy should include what happens to the retired dogs (e.g. possibility to stay with the client, re-homing and conditions for re-homing). The possible solutions for dogs’ retirement must consider the welfare and specific care needs of an aging dog.  

5. Grief support

This service must be available upon request to clients when guide dogs retire or die. It may also be made available to breeding stock guardians and puppy raisers. 


Training manuals and other documentation on this topic may be accessed through the IGDF website or individual members 

 Refer to IGDF Standard 3 Client Services. 

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Section 10. Veterinary Care