Guide Dog Services

Guide dogs provide more than mobility- they also provide companionship, enhanced independence and improved confidence. Choosing to live and work with a guide dog is a big decision, and we are committed to helping our clients work their way through the entire process.

A yellow labrador pup wearing a Blind Low Vision NZ Guide Dogs jacket. Beneath it is the text Proudly supported by Royal Canin with the Royal Canin logo displayed.

What we do

At Blind Low Vision NZ, we believe that people who are blind, deafblind, or have low vision should have a choice when it comes to getting around independently. As New Zealand’s sole provider of professionally trained Guide Dogs, we breed, raise and train our dogs to meet the individual needs of Blind Low Vision NZ clients who choose guide dog mobility.

 

What Blind Low Vision NZ Guide Dogs provide

Guide dogs give people who are blind, deafblind or have low vision, freedom and independence. They help people to get around safely and confidently. They also make wonderful companions.

Facts about having a guide dog:

  • Your guide dog and its equipment, free of charge.
  • One-to-one training with a professional Guide Dog Mobility Instructor.
  • Customised instructional programme to meet your individual needs.
  • Follow up and support for the life of the guide dog team.
  • Access to financial support in cases of veterinary emergencies or sudden illness.
  • When the time comes for your guide dog to retire, we will talk with you about the potential for a successor dog.

Breeding and Early Development

We’re very selective when it comes to our breeding dogs. We only select those most likely to produce healthy pups with the temperament necessary to succeed as guide dogs. We produce in excess of 100 puppies per year at the Guide Dogs Breeding Centre. Pregnant females return to our centre one week prior to whelping (giving birth) and remain there with their litters until the puppies are ready for placement into Puppy Raising homes, at about 9 weeks of age.

The Breeding Centre staff (Dog Care Specialists) are responsible for looking after pregnant broods and their litters from birth to 9 weeks. During this time, staff work hard to maintain a high level of biosecurity in order to protect the puppies from disease. The staff also provide enrichment and exercise opportunities for the broods, and follow a detailed early development protocol to begin preparing our puppies for life as guide dogs.

Guide Dogs Healthcare

The Guide Dogs Health Manager looks after the health and nutrition of each puppy, training dog, and working guide in the Guide Dogs programme. The Health Manager manages relationships with vets, food and pharmaceutical providers in order to maintain the health and wellbeing of each dog throughout its life. The role also provides health and nutrition advice and support to guide dog handlers, puppy raisers, breeding stock guardians and staff.

Puppy Placement and Development

The aims of the Puppy Placement and Development Programme is to place puppies into appropriate volunteer raiser homes and provide ongoing support to the raisers throughout the pup’s first year of life.

The Puppy Development Advisor provides one-to-one tuition and support to puppy raisers, ensuring that each puppy receives the training and exposure required to succeed on the guide dog training programme.

Using STEP (Successive Training and Enrichment Programme), the advisors help our raisers to develop solid relationship building skills with their pups while training good home behaviour, good manners, and exposing the pups to all of the situations and environments that will prepare them for training and working as a Guide Dog.

For more about how you can become a volunteer Puppy Raiser, click here.

 

 

Kenneling Services

The role of the kennel staff (Dog Care Specialists) is to care for our dogs while they are in kennels. Dogs come into kennels for a number of reasons, whether during formal training, while in season, or for early exposure to the environment while still on the puppy programme. During their stay, dogs are given daily opportunities to run in our extensive free run areas, spend time with a staff member or volunteer in the canine enrichment room, and of course ample time with trainers learning the important work of becoming a guide dog.  The kennel staff spend much of their day keeping the facility hygienic, as well as feeding, grooming, and bathing the dogs. They also support the guide dog training staff by ensuring dogs engage in appropriate behaviour while in the kennels.

 

Guide Dog Training

The Guide Dog Trainer is responsible for training dogs that have returned to the Guide Dog Centre at approximately one year of age. Trainers work with six or more dogs at a time over a 4-month period, teaching the dogs to respond to commands, stop at kerbs, avoid obstacles, and ignore distractions (food, people, and other dogs). In the more advanced stages of training dogs learn to locate pertinent destinations, take on the responsibility of guiding a totally blind person, and to make safety decisions on the fly.

Client Services

The role of the Guide Dog Mobility Instructor (GDMI) is to provide ongoing support and tuition to guide dog teams throughout the life of each partnership. The GDMI is responsible for assessing potential applicants, matching trained guide dogs with BLVNZ clients on the wait list, and providing one-to-one tuition for clients with new guide dogs. The GDMI acts as the primary contact for the guide dog handlers in their region, as well as providing advocacy and technical support for the team throughout their working life.

Support Services

Blind Low Vision NZ Guide Dogs relies heavily on the support of a small number of administrative staff who manage things such as the vehicle fleet, volunteers and data processes. This core group supports each of the Guide Dogs business units as well as being our front line staff on the phones and at reception. Property maintenance is managed by the South Auckland complex manager.

Is a guide dog right for me?

If you think a guide dog might be right for you, please answer our short self-assessment quiz. These questions will help you determine if guide dog mobility is the right choice for you at this time in your life.

A very young guide dog puppy sits snuggled in someone's arms sleepily

Volunteering with guide dogs

There are lots of volunteering opportunities with our guide dogs, including becoming:

If you can open your heart and your home, you’ll be fully supported by our dedicated, experienced staff while the dog is in your care.

All food, registration and vet costs will be covered, and you will be supplied with everything you need to succeed.

 

 

Puppy Raiser Kendall and guide dog puppy, Orrissa are walking off to the left hand side

Vision Loss Assistance Dogs

Blind Low Vision NZ Guide Dogs has implemented a new level of service for clients. Our Vision Loss Assistance Dogs (VLAD) programme will re-purpose dogs that do not qualify as a working guide dogs but have the skills to help clients in other areas. The dogs will not be used for guiding work but will be able to help clients in a variety of other roles: giving confidence, helping with balance, and visibility when out in public, assisting with mobility and other tasks to enable clients to become more independent.

Any client of Blind Low Vision NZ can apply and be assessed for a Vision Loss Assistance Dog. If you believe you would benefit from a Vision Loss Assistance Dog or you know someone you think might be interested, the team would love to hear from you.

Download our Vision Loss Assistance Dogs brochure to learn more.

Client Marvin looks adoringly at his Vision Loss Assistance Guide Dog, Mason. Marvin is in a wheelchair.

Adopt a Dog

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.

Some of the withdrawn dogs will go on to do great work for another service, and some will become wonderful companion dogs for people with a disability. Priority is given to these placements.If you are successful in adopting a withdrawn dog, an adoption fee to a maximum of $1,500 will apply, and you will be required to sign an Agreement stating you take full responsibility for the health, welfare and security of the dog. No withdrawn or retired dog may be used as a guide for someone who is blind, deafblind or has low vision.

Please register your interest in adopting a dog by clicking on the button below. Please note that you will be required to pay an online Administration fee of $25.00 during the application process.

Puppy Raising

Open your homes to one of our adorable puppies and embrace the opportunity to help Kiwis who are blind, deafblind or have low vision to live a life without limits.

Golden retriever guide dog puppy lying down

Guide Dog FAQs

Got a burning question about our amazing pups? See if we’ve already answered it below!

The 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 Dogs 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, deafblind or has low vision, who becomes its 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.

Guide dogs can go to most public places, including restaurants, offices, clinics, hospitals, shops, cinemas & hotels. They can also travel on public transport.

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 people, guide dogs need to be well-behaved wherever they are. Although dogs are legally entitled to go anywhere with a person who’s blind, deafblind or has low vision, other people sometimes challenge that. It helps if the dogs are so well behaved they’re overlooked. 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.

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.

Please don’t distract any guide dog by petting them when they are with a person who’s blind, deafblind 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 make them 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.

Unfortunately, no, we do really appreciate the generosity seen with offers of puppies and dogs; however, we don’t accept donated dogs into our programme.
We have a specialised breeding programme where we work towards ensuring the 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 health and temperament that is required.

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.

Contact us

Our breeding and training centre is at 30 Mcvilly Rd, Manurewa, Auckland 2102 and is open Monday through Friday from 8.30am to 4.30pm.

Supporter Care

If you have a question about your donation, please contact our Supporter Care team on 0800 366 283 or email supportercare@blindlowvision.org.nz . Our Supporter Care team are available from 8.30am to 5pm, Monday through Friday.

Media enquiries

If you are a journalist, please contact our Marketing and Communications team on communications@blindlowvision.org.nz .

 

A Guide Dog Mobility Instructor is out training a guide dog. They are crossing at a pedestrian crossing and walking towards the camera.