RoverSince 1942, children and their families in the same part of the country as the Seeing Eye have been able to volunteer to be part of the program. These eligible areas are New Jersey, parts of New York and Maryland, eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Volunteer families take seven-week-old Seeing Eye puppies into their homes and raise them. The families are encouraged to give the puppies plenty of affection, teach them basic commands, and familiarize them with a variety of social situations. When the dogs are about eighteen months old, they return to the Seeing Eye where they undergo an extensive physical examination and four months of training with a sighted Seeing Eye trainer.
The trainers, who must complete three-year apprenticeships, educate the dogs with a system of rewards and corrections; the reward is usually a loving pat and the correction is a verbal criticism. The early training takes place on the Seeing Eye campus. At this time the dogs learn basic obedience commands and to pull in harness. The training then moves to residential Morristown, where the dogs now learn to lead in harness and to stop at curbs.
When the dogs are ready for it, the route gradually changes from quiet side streets to the downtown area, where the dogs encounter heavier pedestrian and vehicular traffic. At the end of their training, the dogs learn "intelligent disobedience": to ignore a command if it will lead to danger. In this way, Seeing Eye dogs must gain the ability to take the initiative and to use their own judgment in carrying out a command.
Finally, the dogs have their final exam as they walk through Morristown with their blindfolded trainers. A training supervisor grades the dogs to determine whether they can perform this vitally important job properly.