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24 Ways A Guide Dog Can Be Disqualified

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I just received a letter in the mail that it’s time for Stetson to return to the Guide Dogs of America for his formal training in Sylmar, CA.

I’m sad and happy at the same time. It’s going to be difficult letting Stetson go on to the next stage of his life. However, this is exactly what we’ve been working towards over the past year.

I think of it as Stetson graduating high school (his training time with me) and moving on to college at GDA.

Stetson the Bear
Stetson Posing As A Bear

Of course, when he graduates college he’ll move on to his career hopefully as a guide dog.

If he doesn’t make it as a guide dog then he can be career changed to life as a pet, therapy dog, search and rescue, or possibly some other type of working dog.

If Stetson comes back to me as a pet I’ll do my best to get Stetson trained as a therapy dog.

While thinking about Stetson’s departure I took a look back at his puppy manual to see what last-minute things we could work on to get Stetson ready for “college.”

From the Guide Dogs of America puppy manual:

Causes For Disqualification

In order to successfully complete guide dog training and become a useful mobility aid to a blind person, a dog must meet certain physical and temperamental requirements.



  1. 26-inch maximum height
  2. 20-inch minimum height
  3. Allowance of 1/2 inch at each end for exceptionally nice dogs or special need
  4. Weight in direct relationship to proper size


  1. Scars that are large enough or severe enough to cause negative comments from the general public
  2. Down (or non-erect) ears on a German Shepherd Dog
  3. Severely undershot or overshot bite
  4. Missing teeth (enough to interfere with keeping tongue properly in mouth)
  5. Any obvious disqualifying fault that the general public would be able to notice about any breed that GDA uses.


In discussing temperamental causes for disqualification there is no correct way to list them as there are too many different factors involved with each individual dog.

Obviously, with the responsibility that a working guide dog has, it is important that the dog be able to handle stress and pressure during the normal course of working.

Some of the causes are as follows but are not limited to:

  1. Aggression toward people or extreme fear of people
  2. Uncontrollable dog aggression
  3. Uncontrollable animal distraction/interest
  4. Fear biting
  5. General suspicion of the environment
  6. Excessive energy
  7. Destructive behavior
  8. Sound shyness
  9. Over-sensitivity to traffic
  10. Lacking the ability to remain focused in distraction areas
  11. Overly sensitive to pressure in guide work
  12. Too insensitive to correction, requiring force beyond the average blind person’s physical ability
  13. Lack of willingness to work as a guide dog
  14. Car sickness
  15. Immature and/or irresponsible decision-making

Many dogs will display some of these in the very beginning but the instructors will work with them, giving them every possible chance to show improvement.

If the undesirable characteristic continues or increases, it will be necessary to terminate the dog’s training.

Many times, a dog will improve and reach a point where the original problem was eliminated.

Some dogs will start with no concerns but with the added pressure of learning to become a guide dog, will manifest the undesirable behavior.

We try to give each dog as much individual time, effort, and opportunity to succeed in becoming a guide dog, but we must adhere to a work standard that will give each blind person the best possible mobility aid through their guide dog as possible.

The Goal Is To Be A Guide Dog

Our ultimate goal is to get Stetson to be a full-fledged guide dog. However, if he doesn’t choose to be a guide dog we will welcome him back home and get him (hopefully) involved with therapy dogs.

Stetson will be heading to the GDA campus in Sylmar, CA on May 10th to start his formal guide dog training.

Have you raised a guide dog, service dog, or any kind of working dog?

Do you have any pointers for me when I drop Stetson off at the GDA campus?

That is besides bringing a lot of tissues.

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  1. How do I go about adopting a puppy that did not make it as a service dog. I really want to adopt a lab.

  2. My hope s and had a stroke two years ago and getting a service dog would help both of us. John is a retired military officer who loves dogs. Is there a possibility of getting him a dog.we’d even take a retired dog.

  3. Hi Angel!

    We turned in Dublin right before last Halloween. We here that Apache will be starting his formal guide dog training in July, but haven’t received the official word just yet.

    I hope you’re having a great weekend!

  4. I keep coming back an reading your blog- all out of sequence too!
    My Volt is 29 weeks old tomorrow, and will most likely go back to the South African Guide-dogs around Halloween.

  5. @Tonka & James, yeah he’ll only be 16.5 months old when he goes in for training. I’ll make sure I remove his tags beforehand.

    @Anne, thanks for the vote of confidence. I’ll do my best!

    @Anna & Lawrence, thanks for all the great advice. I’m already set to puppy sit a couple weeks after Stetson goes in for training. I have my parents joining me on Stetson’s turn in day, I’ll make sure they take plenty of pictures.

    @Erin, luckily I have another pet dog that will probably miss Stetson as much as I will. I thought the disqualification for appearance was interesting too.

  6. Tissues and A Camera…and a pet dog if you have one; i do think its interesting that a dog can get disqualified for its appearance…. never heard of that before

  7. Definitely take off the tags. Take lots of pictures, or have someone take pictures of you and Stetson right before you hand him over. I have a picture of me and my family and Arturo that was taken at the GDB kennel about 4 minutes before I turned Arturo in, and I treasure it so much.

    Choose ahead of time whether or not you’re going to say goodbye or just “I’ll see ya later”. It might seem like a little thing, but to me, saying goodbye was closing out the experience. So I said “I’ll see ya later” to Arturo and goodbye to Lawrence. A big thing is just thinking through what is going to happen, and what you’re going to do. Surprises when you’re that emotionally charged, aren’t a good thing. 🙂

    Turning Arturo in didn’t really hit me until I got home, and clanking his dish didn’t cause a big 75lb puppy to run into the room. It’s not easy, but it sounds like you have the right perspective. It sounds like you’ve done a fabulous job with Stetson, and you should be proud of your hard work.

    Don’t be afraid of asking other people to borrow their puppies if you’re missing having a dog around. There’s nothing like puppy therapy to get you over turning in your buddy. And don’t be afraid to cry. And feel free to have dozens of posts about Stetson, even once he’s gone. We understand.

  8. If ever there was a puppy in training to become a working guide, Stetson you are it. You have the right combination of work ethic, stamina, and exuberance. I know one way or another you will be helping to make another persons life that much better. See you soon in the play yard. 🙂

  9. Wow, already going IFT? Best of luck and I will be there for your graduation. I overheard our area leader talking to another puppy raiser about turn in day and one thing she said was it difficult when they said to remove all personal tags so you might want to remove those before.

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