Sponsor a Puppy

Life as a Guide Dog

Guide dogs are specially reared and trained as assistants for the blind or visually impaired. In Malta these dogs tend to be crosses between Labradors and Retrievers (golden or otherwise) but Alsatians are also bred similarly and used as guide dogs in other countries, including Italy.

A guide dog starts out life in a special breeding centre for guide dogs. Those that come to Malta are sourced from a centre in France. At the age of 8-10 weeks the puppy is placed in the care of a volunteer 'Puppy Walker' whose primary task is to socialise the puppy and get it accustomed to being with people and in public places.

As the puppy grows and the weeks go by, these dedicated volunteer ‘Puppy Walkers’ then help with general obedience training, roadcraft, spending commands and discipline. The dog or bitch is neutered during this phase. Once the puppy is a year to 14 months old the ‘Puppy Walker’ hands back the fully grown adult dog to the Malta Guide Dogs Foundation who in turn take it to the Helen Keller Regional Centre Guide Dog School of the Italian Blind Union in Messina, Siciliy, for the final training and polishing.

This is when a period of intense schooling starts, under the guidance of a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor. At around 18-22 months the Guide Dog meets its new owner. Guide dogs and owners are matched both for their stature and for their character.

Once a match is found, the two form a team and are taught to meet all possible hazards together before final graduation. The Instructor monitors their performance every month for the first year, then at frequent intervals thereafter to ensure a high standard is maintained.