By: Sue London
Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides was founded in 1983 by Lions clubs from across Canada. It offers six programs to meet diverse needs: Canine Vision Dog Guides, Hearing Ear Dog Guides, Service Dog Guides, Seizure Response Dog Guides, Autism Assistance Dog Guides and Diabetic Alert Dog Guides. To date, the foundation has matched Dog Guides with more than 2,500 Canadians. A Dog Guide costs approximately $25,000 to raise and train but none of that cost is passed on to qualifying applicants.
There are a few beginning steps to becoming a dog guide in the Foster Puppy Program:
• Puppies are bred at the Lions Foundation’s facility in Breslau, Ontario. At approximately eight weeks of age, puppies are placed in foster homes until they return for formal training, which is usually around one year of age.
• Foster families house-train the puppies, teach them manners, basic obedience, and socialize them to things like offices, shopping malls and public transportation.
• Foster families attend puppy classes in Oakville and Breslau every four to six weeks throughout the one year commitment.
• Veterinary care is provided at the Lions Foundation’s in-house clinic. Food is donated and the Lions Foundation provides veterinary care.
• The puppies are screened for both physical soundness as well as temperament before entering the training program.
• After a dog completes the four to six-month training program, a successful applicant comes to stay at the Oakville training facility for one to four weeks, to work with their new Dog Guide and establish the bond that is necessary for the team to succeed.
• After graduation, follow-up visits and communication between the graduate and the training staff is maintained to ensure on-going success.
• A working Dog Guide is permitted in all public places. The dogs have been trained to travel on all forms of public transportation.
• The Dog Guide’s attention must be on its handler at all times therefore people are not permitted to pet a Dog Guide while it is in harness.