This section provides a list of staff resources required in a well-established guide dog organisation and sets a pathway for new organisations to consider. New organisations do not need to establish all these positions as separate entities initially, as in smaller organisations, staff will often undertake more than one function. 

A) Staff roles

It is essential organisations recruit, train and develops full and part time staff and volunteers in adequate numbers when operating the following “technical” activities and support or non-technical services: 

Non-technical staff

  • Governance and management – Board and CEO/Director; 
  • Administration support services, record keeping systems and resources;
  • Buildings and transport management and maintenance;
  • Fund raising and public relations – media and communications;
  • Staff development and training. 

Technical staff

  • Breeding services;
  • Puppy raising;
  • Kennels services;
  • Veterinary care;
  • Guide dog assessment and training;
  • Client services – applicants, clients and graduates;
  • Adoption/career change services. 

While all technical staff must be appropriately qualified and/or trained for the specific requirements of their respective positions, special focus must be given to the 3 key roles of:  

  • Guide Dog Trainer – GDT; 
  • Guide Dog Mobility Instructor – GDMI;
  • Where possible, GDMIs responsible for the education of GDMI trainees should be the most experienced person available. Consultation with experienced GDMIs from other organisations is advisable. 


B) Staff training requirements  

GDMI staff
To become certified as a GDMI, it can take several years of continuous on the job training to complete what is variously called a traineeship/cadetship/apprenticeship. The length of the training required does depend on the trainee’s previous level of experience and/or education. In starting organisations, the GDMI education will typically be covered (partly or as a whole) through collaboration with other well-established organisations and/or experienced individuals.

  1. The minimum number of qualified dogs trained = 6 (including 2 fully supervised, 2 partially supervised, and 2 unsupervised), 
  2. The minimum number of guide dog/client teams trained = 6 (including 2 fully supervised, 2 partially supervised and 2 unsupervised), 
  3. Core competencies, including Orientation and Mobility and other practical and theoretical as per the IGDF GDMI course curriculum. 

Trainees must be examined and passed by an experienced GDMI as described above, or by another certified, independently appointed individual or body. 

Canine Development Staff – include Puppy Raising and Breeding
In smaller organisations the same individuals may be responsible for more than one area. For example, GDMIs may participate in advising puppy raisers and assessing temperament of the breeding stock. 

Puppy Raising Staff
Exposure and early learning experiences for puppies are critical to the development of guide dogs. Providing advice to inexperienced volunteer puppy raising families is a critical role.

To fulfill this role it is important that individuals have knowledge in the following areas: 

  • Coaching and support of volunteer puppy raisers;
  • Key stages of puppy development and learning 
  • Learning theory;
  • How to structure learning experiences necessary for work as a guide dog;
  • Puppy behaviour and temperament assessment;
  • Nutrition, healthcare and welfare.

Breeding Staff
It is not essential to have a breeding programme to become a member of IGDF. Before starting a breeding programme, start-up schools are encouraged to hire a person trained in animal breeding or at least utilize the support of a veterinarian or experienced dog breeder.  


C) Staff documentation and processes 

The following documentation and processes must exist for all full, part time and volunteer staff: 

  • Contract of employment or agreement (pursuant to applicable local laws);
  • Position/job description;
  • Personal profile;
  • Relevant qualifications and position competencies;
  • Annual performance development review;
  • Staff grievance and appeals procedure. 


D) Continuing education 

Organisations must ensure each staff member participates in a continuous programme of professional development as attaining competency to perform required responsibilities is critical for long term success. 


Training manuals, examples and other documentation on this topic may be acquired through the IGDF or its Members. 

 Refer to IGDF Standard 2 Staff Education & Professional Development 


Back to ‘Starting a Guide Dog Organisation’ home page

Section 5. Source of dogs