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International Guide Dog Day

April 24th marked International Guide Dog Day, a day to celebrate the invaluable assistance these dogs provide to people with visual impairments.

Alanna Kelly, province-wide video reporter from Glacier Media, attended International Guide Dog Day where our trainers actively showcased our dogs completing various tasks and activities. Our trainers demonstrated the remarkable skills and abilities of the dogs in training, detailing the rigorous training process they undergo to become exceptional Guide Dogs.*

*Read the full feature with Glacier Media here.

Rachel Nelson, our Apprentice Mobility Dog Instructor with two years of experience, describes the program as immensely rewarding. “Being able to work with the dogs, but also the people, it’s pretty amazing,’ she says. “Watching your dog that you trained, go off and do all the things they need to do with someone else is really the most rewarding thing.”

Volunteers, such as Puppy Raisers and Dog Boarders, play a crucial role in shaping these dogs into reliable guides for individuals navigating the world with visual impairments.

The process begins with Puppy Raisers, who foster the dogs for 18 months to two years, providing essential training and socialization. These volunteers, ideally retirees or families with flexible schedules, receive support from the organization, covering vet bills and food expenses. Weekly training sessions take place in Ladner with our professional trainers to ensure the dogs are on track for their future responsibilities.

As the dogs reach two years of age, they undergo rigorous training with our mobility instructors. These trainers assess the dogs’ abilities and suitability for guiding individuals through various environments, from crowded streets to bustling city centres.

Matching a guide dog with its future teammate is a meticulous process, ensuring compatibility and mutual trust. Qualified recipients must be legally blind, Canadian residents, and over 13 years of age, with the program’s cost symbolically set at one dollar to ensure accessibility.

In a statement, William Thornton, the CEO of BC & Alberta Guide Dogs and Chair of the Board of Directors at the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) says, “International Guide Dog Day serves as a poignant reminder of the profound impact Guide Dogs have on the lives of individuals with visual impairments worldwide. At BC & Alberta Guide Dogs, we are committed to upholding the highest standards of training and care for our Guide Dogs, ensuring they are equipped to enhance the independence and mobility of their future partners. Today, as we celebrate the bond between Guide Dogs and their handlers, we also reaffirm our dedication to empowering individuals with visual impairments to lead fulfilling and independent lives.”

Guide Dog Statistics as at 31 December 2023

19,557 Guide Dogs are currently working worldwide. This means that 19,557 people who are blind or have low vision have the support of a Guide Dog to help them live life on their terms.This is a small decrease from the 20,281 Guide Dog teams working in 2022, as a result of decreased training numbers since the Covid-19 pandemic.

2,598 Guide Dogs were trained during 2023. The global Covid 19 pandemic had a severe impact on IGDF members around the world, but they showed resilience and creativity and found ways to continue to deliver these essential services. The 2023 figure of 2,598 is an improvement on the 2022 figure of 2,426, the 2021 total of 2,405 and the 2020 figure of 2,038, but further work is needed to return to the pre-pandemic levels of 3,000 Guide Dogs being trained each year.

7,007 individuals were employed full or part-time by IGDF organizations around the world. Their dedication, expertise and professionalism enables thousands of people who are blind or have low vision to enjoy a safe and effective Guide Dog service.

38,348 individual volunteers gave their time and experience to help IGDF member organizations deliver these life-changing services. This is a substantial increase on the 34,033 individual volunteers recorded in 2022. This demonstrates the strength and breadth of community involvement and support around the world.

9,312 Guide Dog puppies started Guide Dog training during 2023. This is a substantial increase on the 7,462 puppies who started Guide Dog training during 2022. The Covid 19 pandemic had a severe impact on Guide Dog training and Guide Dog waiting lists have increased worldwide. IGDF member organizations are determined to increase Guide Dog provision and reduce the time people have to wait for a Guide Dog. These new puppies are the Guide Dogs of the future.

More statistics on the IGDF website: