Since 1939 Leader Dog for the Blind has operated one of the world’s most respected and innovative guide dog programs. The free, 26-day residential training program welcomes clients who are legally blind, at least 16 years old, have good orientation and mobility skills and are able to care for their dog.

Training is personalized for each client. Thanks to sophisticated breeding, puppy raising and dog training programs, Leader Dog is able to match clients with a dog that best fits their lifestyle, travel pace, physical size, stamina and other considerations. Clients have the opportunity to train with their guide dog in a wide variety of situations to fit their current and future needs, including urban, suburban and rural locations; college campuses; busy stores and malls, public transit and other environments.

The accelerated seven-day residential orientation and mobility (O&M) training empowers people who are blind by providing the skills needed to travel safely using a white cane in a much shorter timeframe than traditional O&M programs. The one-on-one instruction is tailored to the client’s capabilities allowing for individual needs to be met.

The program focuses on many areas of O&M, including:

  • Using a white cane
  • Utilizing a human guide
  • Using orientation skills and cardinal directions (i.e., north, south, east, west) to know where you are, where you want to go and how to get there
  • Solving problems along your route, such as barriers, crowds, etc.
  • Crossing both narrow and wide streets safely
  • Re-orientating yourself
  • Shopping, soliciting assistance when needed, and more

Training takes place in a wide variety of environments, such as residential, semi-business, business, city and country settings. The majority of instruction takes place outdoors with the remainder focusing on how to navigate elevators, escalators and moving sidewalks.

Accelerated O&M training is provided free of charge at Leader Dogs for the Blind’s Rochester Hills, Michigan campus to those who are legally blind and at least 16 years of age, regardless of whether or not they plan to eventually train with a guide dog. Travel to and from a client’s home to the Leader Dog campus and accommodations and meals while training are also provided free of charge.

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