At Southeastern Guide Dogs, our four-legged superheroes offer confidence, courage, and hope.
Guide dogs, service dogs, facility therapy dogs, breeder dogs, and others transform the lives of our students and graduates. It takes two years, tens of thousands of dollars, and a community of supporters and volunteers to create our world-class dogs. People with visual impairments and veterans with post-traumatic stress gain confidence, freedom, and hope with a guide dog or service dog by their side.
As we pursue excellence, our education, socialization, and training strategies help our dogs follow clear career paths from preschool to graduation to a meaningful career to retirement.
The Career Path of Dogs
Puppy Academy: Preschool and Kindergarten
Puppies are bred and born on our campus. At just a few days old, they begin their education as they are tickled and stretched. At four weeks, our puppy preschool program introduces sights, sounds, scents, surfaces, and everyday objects. At six weeks, our Puppy Kindergarten Adventure program invites the public to continue their multi-sensory education.
Boarding School: 1st – 12th grades
At 10 weeks, puppies go to boarding school, where our volunteer puppy raisers teach basic obedience and house manners in a loving home environment. Community excursions and personalized training with local puppy raiser groups provide socialization and confidence as puppies experience the big, wide world.
Freshman Orientation: Canine Assessment Center
At 14 – 18 months, puppies graduate from high school and head off to college, returning to our campus for freshman orientation at our Canine Assessment Center, where young dogs develop their careers.
University Level: Pursuing a Major
As our dogs progress, each one’s aptitudes and abilities become clear. Dogs are chosen for a major based on personality, health, temperament, trainability, and suitability for specific careers. The majority of our dogs pursue one of the following career paths:
- Guide Dog Major: After about six months of formal harness training plus 20 days of student-handler training, dogs that graduate as guide dogs provide independence and confidence to those with visual impairments. (Click to apply)
- Service Dog Major: After about six months of formal training plus 12 days of student-handler training, dogs that graduate as service dogs provide independence and confidence to veterans with post-traumatic stress. (Click to apply)
- Facility Therapy Dog Major: Facility therapy dogs are hand-selected to provide therapeutic services to veterans and families being treated in military medical facilities across the nation. These dogs live at home with facility staff members and travel to work each day with their handlers. (Click to apply)
- Genetics and Reproduction Major: Dogs that are hand-selected as breeders preserve the quality and diversity of the lines through selective breeding. This major requires exceptional health plus all of the best traits of guide dogs and service dogs. Volunteers living near our campus host breeders in their homes. Click here for more information.
- Gifted Canines Major with Minor Emphases:
- Emotional Support Dog Minor: Dogs are hand-selected as emotional support dogs to provide therapeutic comfort to veterans with disabilities. (Apply here)
- Canine Connection Dog Minor: Dogs are hand-selected to become companions for youth with visual impairments, building a bridge to a future guide dog. (Apply here)
- Gold Star Family Dog Minor: Recognizing the sacrifices made when a family member dies in service to the nation, Southeastern Guide Dogs offers well behaved, loving companion dogs to Gold Star families in need. (Apply here)
- Public Service Dog Minor: Dogs are hand-selected to serve in law enforcement careers such as arson, firearms, and drug detection, and for the Fish & Wildlife Commission. (Apply here)
- Ambassador Dog Minor: Dogs are hand-selected as ambassadors and are adopted by active volunteers, enabling outreach and education to further the Southeastern Guide Dogs mission.
After Graduation: Alumni Support
After graduation, we follow up with our dogs and graduates for the life of the teams. Our Graduate Services Department provides follow-up training and support for all alumni.
When a dog is ready to retire, handlers may choose to keep their dog as a pet or ask a family member or personal friend to adopt the retired dog. If needed, Southeastern Guide Dogs can place the dog back with its original puppy raiser or with a pre-screened adoptive family.
*While our breeding program creates extremely healthy dogs, on occasion dogs with health concerns must resign from a career path. For example, cataracts or hip dysplasia are rare conditions that may impede a working career. These wonderful dogs are placed in loving adoptive homes with pre-screened individuals. A cost recovery fee is assessed for these adoptions. Click here for more information.