Are you a teen who is blind or low vision and is interested in utilizing (“handling”) a guide dog? If so, what an exciting goal! As much as you may want to jump right into the application and matching process, you aren’t eligible to handle a guide dog until equipped with the skills to do so safely. Check out the skills to be developed, and then peruse the list of dog guide summer camps you can consider attending!
Let’s take a closer look at the necessary skills, and how to acquire them:
- Excellent Orientation and Mobility (O&M) skills, including independent community travel, are a prerequisite to becoming a dog guide “handler”. You must be a confident and safe traveler prior to being paired with a dog guide; for this reason, most dog guide schools require a handler to be at least sixteen years of age. Persevere with O&M lessons and rehearse the skills in your daily life.
- Exhibiting personal responsibility is a must prior to utilizing a dog guide. To gain the skills, you can learn to self-advocate (including leading an IEP meeting), as well as undertake chores and other personal and home responsibilities.
- You will be the primary caretaker of any future dog guide; to prepare, you can learn to care for a pet. You may consider the Guide Dog for the Blind’s K9 Buddy Program where you could be matched with a well-trained dog as a pet. Such a neat opportunity for dog lovers and future dog guide handlers!
Are you eager to learn more? You can attend a youth summer camp offered by a dog guide school.
The following camps provide participants who are blind or low vision the opportunity to learn more about handling and caring for a dog guide.
Leader Dogs for the Blind
16 and 17-year-olds who are legally blind are invited to attend a free camp in Rochester Hills, Michigan to explore mobility options, discover what it takes to utilize a guide dog, develop leadership skills, and meet friends with similar experiences. Participants also receive a complementary Humanware GPS travel aid and training on its use. Please note, that you can participate whether or not you plan to utilize a guide dog.
Alternatively, 14 to 17-year-olds can participate in a free, virtual summer camp to explore mobility options, develop leadership skills, and meet friends.
To learn more about both camps, visit Summer Experience Camp – Leader Dogs for the Blind.
Guide Dogs for the Blind
Young people who are blind or low vision are invited to attend a free, in-person camp at Oral Hull Park in Sandy, Oregon to become familiar with the experience of using a guide dog and to understand the orientation and mobility skills needed for a successful guide dog experience.
To learn more about Camp GDB, visit Camp GDB | Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Southeastern Guide Dogs
14 to 17-year-olds who are legally blind or who have an eye condition that is leading to legal blindness are invited to attend a free, two-day camp in Palmetto, Florida with their parents to learn how to care for and handle a guide dog. Overnight/weekend camps are available throughout the year.
There is no application deadline; applications are accepted through the website (www.guidedogs.org/camp) all year round!
Our hope is for you to learn more about caring for and handling a guide dog, and to gain the necessary skills which prepare you to travel safely, whether or not a dog guide is in your future!