Fun Facts about Southeastern Guide Dogs
Trivia, truths, and tales abound, and here’s a few fun facts about the guide dog school that started in a farm house in a cow pasture in then-rural Palmetto, Florida.
Our school began in 1982, and in 1983, three dogs were matched with three visually impaired individuals. The current location in Palmetto began with a three-bedroom house that served as a dormitory, and the first trainer lived on the premises. Evening meals were provided by local Lions Clubs using donated food.
We now train Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and a mix called a goldador, but our school once trained collies, vizlas, Australian shepherds, and German shepherds, too.
Our tiniest puppies begin their education at just two days old, as volunteers gently handle them to introduce them to human touch.
When our females have their pups and are nursing, their bodies are constantly burning calories and working to feed their pups. The calories they burn are the equivalent of running 25 miles a day! That’s a lot of dog food!
In addition to dedicated staff who care for and train our dogs, our volunteers spend one-on-one enrichment time with over 200 dogs each month—dedicated time for learning through relaxing “play,” bathing/grooming, solo walks, and playtime in the yard. In addition to our volunteer puppy raisers, our volunteers also care for older dogs in their homes as respite during training—over 1,000 hours each month!
Our guide dogs learn over 40 commands, plus a remarkable skill called “intelligent disobedience.” Guide dogs learn to use their problem-solving skills and will disobey a command for the safety of the handler. For example, if the handler commands the dog “forward” but an obstacle blocks the path, the dog will refuse to go forward. Our students learn to trust the dog and to explore their environment to figure out why the dog has refused the command.
Our students are as young as 18, with no upper age limit. If senior citizens are physically able to care for a dog and possess the stamina to walk a few miles a day in training, any age is welcome. Our oldest student was 89!
Our mission is this: Southeastern Guide Dogs transforms lives by creating and nurturing extraordinary partnerships between people and dogs. With about 1,000 dogs in our care—including puppies, dogs-in-training, and lifetime follow-up with our graduates’ dogs—and with nearly 3,000 partnerships under our paws, we’re busy transforming lives!