Get ready for life unleashed.
Do you want more independence? If you’re a mature teen with vision loss, you might be ready for a guide dog before you finish high school.
We’ve created a special, no-cost guide dog program for responsible teens like you. If you are accepted into our program, we’ll match you with a highly-trained guide dog. Our certified instructor will work with you here on our campus as well as in your home and school environment. You’ll learn how to handle your dog, including basic and advanced cues, navigation skills, and more.
Responsible teen who’s ready to go? We may have just the dog for you.
For teens ages 15 – 17 who are ready, navigating with a guide dog allows you to experience new freedom and confidence, even before venturing out on your own. Our instructors will evaluate your needs and match you with a dog that is just right for you. In addition to teaching you all you need to know, your instructor is available to teach school staff and students proper guide dog etiquette. Then, after your training, our Alumni Support team will follow up with you for the life of the team.
To help you decide if you are ready for a guide dog and its responsibilities, we host a two-day Guide Dog Camp for teens and parents. Teens interested in a guide dog are highly encouraged to attend this camp, at no cost.
For more information about our Youth Guide Dog program, please email email@example.com or call 941.479.6598 to learn more.
Is a guide dog right for you?
At Southeastern Guide Dogs, we understand the unique challenges and dreams of teenagers living with visual impairments. Our guide dogs aren’t merely pets; they’re specially trained companions designed to provide independence, confidence, and mobility to young individuals like you. Each guide dog partnership is nurtured with love and dedication and focused on understanding the special needs of teenagers, creating a bond that goes beyond the leash.
Taking the first step toward a partnership with a guide dog is an empowering decision. We’ve designed a quick 10-15 minute pre-assessment to help you determine if a guide dog is the right fit for your life and aspirations. It’s a no-commitment way to explore possibilities and realize the incredible difference a guide dog can bring to your world.
This journey is about more than companionship; it’s about growing, learning, and thriving. Our guide dogs are not just helpers; they are friends, guides, and allies in shaping a brighter future. The connection between a guide dog and its guardian is profound, built on trust and cooperation, giving you the power to navigate your world with confidence and grace.
At Southeastern Guide Dogs, we’re dedicated to supporting young guardians like you. Our team is here for you from the moment you begin your pre-assessment right through to the unforgettable day you meet your new four-legged friend.
Are you ready to take the first step toward an exciting and independent chapter in your life? Discover the opportunities that await you with Southeastern Guide Dogs by spending just a few moments on our pre-assessment. Your transformational journey begins here.
Guide Dog Eligibility Criteria
- Visual Impairment: You must demonstrate a need for additional navigational assistance due to a significant visual impairment.
- Age Requirement: To ensure maturity, understanding, and responsibility, you must be at least 15 years old.
- Residency: Residency in the United States or the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico is required to facilitate a successful partnership.
- Criminal Background Check: A criminal background examination is conducted, and a felony conviction results in automatic disqualification. Other offenses are evaluated based on their nature and severity.
- Sobriety Confirmation: Documentation confirming a minimum of one year’s continuous sobriety is required for those with a history of substance misuse.
- Training and Proficiency: Completion of formal Orientation & Mobility training and proficiency in using a white cane are necessary for safe and independent navigation.
- Comfort with Handling Dogs: Comfort and proficiency in handling a large-breed dog weighing 50 to 80 pounds are essential. We want to ensure that both you and your guide dog are comfortable throughout your partnership.
- Physical Stamina: Having physical stamina for regularly participating in physically demanding outdoor activities, such as long walks, is required. For this reason, please note that we do not currently place guide dogs with individuals in wheelchairs or individuals receiving dialysis. We want to ensure the safety and well-being of both the individual and the guide dog.
- Cognitive Ability: It is important that you possess the cognitive ability to grasp and consistently apply dog training concepts. This includes the capacity to work with and handle a guide dog appropriately.
- Long-Term Commitment: The commitment and ability to maintain an active lifestyle with a guide dog for the next 7-9 years are essential.
- Additional Dogs: Guide dogs are only placed in homes with up to two additional dogs to minimize distractions. This ensures that your guide dog can focus on their duties and provide you with the best possible support.
- Safe and Supportive Environment: A safe, loving, and stable home environment with the support of all household members is required.
- Interview Requirement: Participation in an in-depth phone or home interview is necessary during the application process. This allows us to get to know you better and understand your needs and expectations.
- Online University Training: Completion of the comprehensive Online University guide dog training program is mandatory before attending in-person training. This program equips you with the knowledge and skills necessary for a successful partnership.
- In-Person Training: Your successful guide dog partnership requires your full engagement in our rigorous 20-day training course at our Palmetto, Florida campus. This training will prepare you for a strong bond with your guide dog and provide you with the necessary tools for success.
- Ongoing Communication: Ongoing communication with Southeastern Guide Dogs at least once a year is required for the duration of the partnership. We value your feedback and want to ensure that you and your guide dog are thriving.
- Expenses and Care: Southeastern Guide Dogs is proud to provide your guide dog with high-quality food, monthly preventatives, vaccinations, and annual veterinary wellness visits, all at no cost to you. However, guide dog handlers must have the means to cover any additional expenses related to the ongoing care and maintenance of their guide dogs.
“Now I have more freedom to do what I want to do without having to rely on other people to help me.”
— Teen Bella with Guide Dog Dixie | Tampa, Florida