Facts about our guide dogs

Blind Low Vision NZ guide dogs give people who are blind or have low vision freedom and independence. They help people to get around safely and confidently. They also make wonderful companions.

The Blind Low Vision NZ team often get asked questions from people wanting facts about guide dogs. Here are some facts about the most commonly asked about topics.

Breeds of guide dogs

At Blind Low Vision NZ Guide Dog centre, we mainly breed Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and purpose-bred first crosses. Known for their intelligence and steady, friendly nature, these breeds make excellent guide dogs.

We also breed Standard Poodles in small numbers. What’s interesting about Standard Poodles is they may be used in a home where someone is allergic to dog hair.

The life of a guide dog

They start life as adorable puppies with a big future ahead of them. Blind Low Vision NZ puppies will hopefully grow into guide dogs to act as the eyes for many Kiwis who are blind or have low vision. Their five key phases of their life are:

  • Conception: Specially selected brood bitches and stud dogs are mated through the dedicated Blind Low Vision NZ Guide Dog breeding programme.
  • Socialisation: At approximately 9 weeks of age, each puppy is placed with a wonderful volunteer Puppy Raiser. Puppy Raisers help pups develop the confidence and behaviour needed for the future. They introduce the puppies to situations guide dogs may face.
  • Training: After around 12 months with a Puppy Raiser, the budding guide dog returns to Blind Low Vision NZ Guide Dog centre for six months’ intensive training and assessment.
  • Working: Once a dog is trained, they’re matched with a person who is blind or has low vision, who becomes their handler. Together as a team, they can work for up to 9 years before the guide dog retires.
  • Retiring: Once a dog retires, they enjoy a leisurely life. Often, that’s with the people who have played an important part in the dog’s life such as the handler or Puppy Raiser. Sometimes that’s with a new family.

Where can guide dogs go?

Guide dogs can go to most public places, including restaurants, offices, clinics, hospitals, shops, cinemas & hotels. They can also travel on public transport – including buses, planes, ferries, ships, trains, taxis and shuttles.

These rights are outlined in the Human Rights Act (1993) and the Dog Control Act (1996).

There are some places a guide dog can’t go. These include some animal enclosures at zoos and hospital departments such as burns units, oncology and intensive care wards.

Like a person, guide dogs need to be well behaved wherever they are. Although the dogs are legally entitled to go anywhere with a person who’s blind or has low vision, other people sometimes challenge that. It helps if the dogs are so well behaved they’re not noticed. For any dog to be on its best behaviour, they can’t be distracted by people wanting to pat or talk while the dog’s working.

Can I pat a guide dog?

Please don’t distract any guide dog by patting them when they are with a person who’s blind or has low vision (their ‘handler’). The dog might lose their concentration – putting the person in potential danger.

Passers-by often want to pat or approach a guide dog. Other distractions include offering the dog food, talking to the dog or making noises.

As well as potentially putting the handler in harm’s way, it can put the guide dog in danger too. Playing with the dog or feeding it treats it doesn’t usually eat could lead them to become ill or lame.

Every person’s different and some guide dog handlers might be happy for you to pat their dog, but please ask first. If the person says no, please respect their choice.

If you’d like to ask questions, please check if the person has time. Guide dog handlers are often approached by people, but don’t always have time to stop and chat.

Can I donate a puppy to the programme?

Unfortunately, no. We do really appreciate the generosity seen with offers of puppypies and dogs, however we don’t accept donated dogs onto our programme.

We have a specialised breeding programme where we work towards ensuring a consistent production of dogs with desirable traits for guide dog work.

The vast majority of our dogs are bred from our own specially selected stock, with a small percentage that are donated or exchanged from other organisations, so that only the very best dogs are added to the programme, in terms of both the health and temperament that is required.

International Accreditation

Blind Low Vision NZ Guide Dogs is accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF). This means our processes, systems and buildings – and importantly dogs – are of a world-class standard.

Volunteer and help a guide dog

Find out more about how you can volunteer and help a guide dog.

Adopt a Dog – Expression of Interest

Occasionally guide dogs need a change of career. Usually this is because they retire from working as a guide dog for health reasons or through old age. Younger dogs may be withdrawn from the training programme if they are not suitable to work as guide dogs.

This is when the dogs are placed in new, permanent homes where they will be well looked after and thought of as one of the family. With the right home environment, these dogs can make wonderful pets.

If you would like to register your interest in adopting a guide dog, please visit our Adopt a Dog – Expression of Interest page.

Having a Guide Dog and getting around

Working with Guide Dogs

What type of jobs work with dogs at Blind Low Vision NZ?

  • Dog Care Specialist – works in the Training Kennels and Breeding Centre
  • Puppy Placement and Development Advisor – works with the young dogs and volunteers during the puppy raising phase of their development,
  • Guide Dog Mobility Instructor (GDMI) – train dogs the special skills they need to become guides, and works closely with clients, training new handler / guide dog teams and provide ongoing assistance and follow ups.

How do I become a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor

  • Only organisations accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) are able to train certified Guide Dog Mobility Instructors.
  • Blind Low Vision NZ Guide Dogs is the only accredited trainer of GDMI’s in NZ.
  • GDMI cadetships are a paid 3 year programme that contains both practical and theoretical aspects.
  • Cadetships are infrequent and only available as organisational needs arise.
  • Cadetships are advertised through an employment application process.
  • Many successful applicants have come from other roles within guide dogs, so keeping your eye out for any vacancies at Blind Low Vision NZ Guide Dogs, may be to your advantage.


How do I get a job at Blind Low Vision NZ Guide Dogs?

  • Vacancies for any areas within Guide Dogs can occur at short notice so regularly check the Blind Low Vision NZ’s website: https://careers-blindfoundation.force.com/s/
  • Knowledge of canine body language and behaviour is a major consideration when employing new staff (along with canine or animal handling qualifications), and some prospective staff gain these skills as a volunteer in our kennels or breeding centre.

How do I become a Volunteer at Blind Low Vision NZ Guide Dogs?