Join the Southeastern Guide Dogs family
We have designed our 20-day training course to provide you and your new dog the highest opportunity to succeed together. We can’t wait for you to join the Southeastern Guide Dogs family, and we want you to feel at home with us.
Your dog loves working and can’t wait to get started. Each dog has been carefully trained, and now it’s your turn to learn how to navigate with your dog by your side. During your stay, you will learn the concepts and techniques needed to confidently work together, and we’ll be with you every step of the way. We invite a maximum of 12 students for each class, and assign at least three trainers to your class.
Comfortable living arrangements
We make sure you feel welcome and comfortable. Each private room is outfitted with a double bed, fresh linens, and daily fresh towels in your private bathroom with walk-in shower. Stylish room furnishings include a desk and chair, accessible organizing systems in the walk-in closet, a flat-screen television with cable, ceiling fan, and a dog crate for your new companion. Each room also includes a small, personal refrigerator. Our hospitality staff takes great care to keep your room clean and well stocked with towels and linens, and staff are on premise 24 hours a day. Washing machines, dryers, and detergent are also provided.
Our professional chefs prepare daily delicious meals. Snacks, coffee, juices, and fruit are available in the dining hall at any time, and vending machines are nearby. Our students rave about our food, and we’re happy to meet special dietary needs. Dietary restrictions can be discussed with our chefs upon arrival.
A wireless connection is available, and we encourage you to bring your cell phone. At your request, we can outfit your room with a landline telephone. For your convenience, we provide a complimentary computer lab with adaptive equipment including ZoomText, JAWS, and a CCTV.
Making an ideal match
Just as people differ, each dog has a unique personality and character traits. Matching the right dog to the right person is an art and a science, and our skilled trainers have a 98% success rate with matching the right dog and student on the first try.
Our trainers study each dog’s personality and traits, including pace, pull, gait, drift, and temperament, and then match each dog with each student based on pace, home environment, home traffic conditions, and other factors.
Your first few days
When you first arrive at our 33-acre campus, we’ll introduce you to classmates, staff members, and your trainers. You’ll tour the student areas and become familiar with your surroundings. We’ve developed systems to make your navigation easier.
On your second day—and one of our favorite days—you’ll meet your new dog. But first, your trainers will perform final evaluations by taking you on a few walks with and without a dog. We have your dog in mind before you arrive, but these evaluations help us solidify which dog is the perfect match.
We love what we call the “Parade of Dogs,” that moment our trainers walk your new dogs to the students’ rooms and introducing them one at a time. Meeting your new dog is one of the most exciting moments. You’ll spend the rest of the day getting acquainted with your new friend. You’ll take your first steps together on day three, when we introduce you to your dog’s harness.
Training for Success
Your dog has been thoroughly trained, and now it’s time to teach you to work together. You’ll learn the basics of caring for your dog’s needs, and we’ll also teach you the concepts and techniques to be a successful guide dog team.
Monday through Friday, you and your trainers will practice in different settings. You’ll start on our Palmetto campus, and venture by vans to Bradenton, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Tampa.
Trainers present lectures on most weekdays, evenings, and some weekends. These lectures provide information and prepare you for the next day’s work. We encourage you to bring your own recording devices or writing materials to record the information provided. All class lectures are also available electronically by request.
Saturdays are a half-day for working and instruction, and Sundays are for rest! We’ll provide transportation to religious services on request, and volunteers are available to accompany you.
Skills and commands
To work with your dog, you’ll learn many commands that your dog already understands. Your dog has learned over 40 commands, and now it’s your turn to practice.
You’ll learn specific skills such as how to handle curbs, street crossings, and obstacles. You and your dog will also practice navigating stairs, elevators, escalators, buses, roundabouts, malls, stores, and busy urban areas. You and your trainer will also work on specific skills addressing your common work or home environments and special needs.
By commencement day, you’ll be ready to take on a whole new world, opening up doors of independence and freedom. It’s no wonder our graduation days are so moving!
“Everyone at Southeastern has been exceptional in welcoming us and taking care of us. Knowing that so many are so helpful helps relieve anxiety for the student and lets us concentrate on our dog and experiences with the dog.”Comment on Graduate Satisfaction Survey
Special days: Picture, Puppy Raiser and Commencement Day
Our staff photographer will take special photos, and you will be provided with a photo of you and your new guide as well as a class photo to remember your time with us.
Puppy Raiser Day
The second Saturday of class is Puppy Raiser Day. Your new guide spent about a year with a volunteer family who helped mold your dog into a successful guide dog he or she is. It takes a special person to be a puppy raiser, and our caring raisers do it all for you!
On Puppy Raiser Day, we invite the family who raised your guide dog to come on campus to meet you. It is often a joyful day, when your dog is surrounded by the people it loves most.
You’ll show off your new teamwork by walking a short route on campus. This gives the raisers the opportunity to see the accomplishments of the marvelous pup they raised. Afterward, you’ll meet the families, enjoy lunch together, take a photo, and share stories about your new guide.
On the final Friday of class, we’ll celebrate your hard work and accomplishments with a Commencement Luncheon. Family, friends, and invited guests share a short ceremony as a culmination of your hard work and the start of a new season of independence.
Graduation is always a mixture of laughter and tears as we say farewell to our beloved dogs and our new friends, our graduates. However, your commencement is just the beginning of a lifetime connection. Welcome to the Southeastern family!