May 2015 News letter- S A Guide-Dogs Assosiation
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Dr. Gerna Says,
For many of us the phrase “working like a dog” does not really make sense. Our pets spend most of their time sleeping, eating , playing and at a push, they have a daily walk. This phrase is put into perspective once you read about the life of a guide dog.
To be able to help blind and visually impaired people get around safely, guide dogs need to know how to keep a direct route, walk at a steady pace, turn left and right, avoid obstacles, lie quietly when their handler is sitting down and obey a number of verbal commands. A guide dog must also demonstrate an absolute mastery of crosswalk navigation. Have you ever wondered how a guide dog helps its handler across roads at traffic lights? Dogs cannot distinguish the color of the lights.
They are taught to stop at a curb and wait for a command from the handler. If the handler gives a command but the road is not clear and safe, the dog will selectively disobey the handler and only proceed when it is safe for them to cross. This is the most amazing thing about these dogs – their ability to balance obedience with their own assessment of the situation.

They are taught to judge which spaces are too narrow for handler and dog to fit through together and they can decide when overheads are too low for the handler to go under safely.
We all know Labradors are food driven which makes training them with treats easy. Yet all of their training gets done with positive reinforcement techniques, teaching the dogs not to get distracted by food while working. In harness they must be 100% focused on the job and handler. When the harness comes off, it signals the end of a day’s work and time for playing and relaxing has come.
We all admire these dogs and can hardly resist touching them when we come across them, but remember the best you can do is not to distract them, allowing them to get on with their job. Guiding the blind requires their undivided attention.

Facts about the 
SA Guide-Dogs Association


  • GDA is the only organisation of its kind in South Africa and Africa at large.
  • GDA does not receive any funding from the government.
  • GDA trains guide dogs for the visually impaired, service dogs for the physically impaired, and orientation & mobility practitioners to teach the visually impaired skills of daily living, as well as long cane training – the alternative form of independence to our visually impaired community.
  • a full sponsorship contribution toward the breeding and training of a guide dog is R10 000 – see breakdown of various sponsorship levels attached.
  • the true cost of training a guide dog is R80 000.
  • It only costs a visually or physically impaired person R105 to receive a guide or service dog (R5 for the dog, R100 for training including 3 weeks accommodation, meals and all equipment).
  • GDA is the 10th oldest Guide Dog school in the World, and one of the founder members of the International Federation of Guide Dog Schools. There are over 90 schools worldwide.
  • GDA is celebrating 60 years of independence, mobility, companionship and dignity to our visually and physically impaired during 2013.
  • GDA was founded by Gladys Evans in 1953, and was trained with her first dog Sheena, by the Lemington SPA facility in Great Britain.
  • The 1st guide dog in SA was trained in 1957.
  • Since 1953 to date 1457 guide dogs and 97 service dogs (since 1993) were trained by the Association.
  • Currently we have approximately 350 guide and service dogs working throughout South Africa.
Helpful Links:

REPTILES: – Melissa Kaplans Pages on various reptile species, with her main focus on Green iguanas. While most of the information is reliable, if you have a male iguana, please consult your reptile vet regarding potential behavioural changes and possible onset of inexplicable aggression once reaching maturity, as this can happen in a very small percentage of males.

SMALL MAMMALS: – A wonderful site linked to a major rat rescue society in SA. Lots of info, ratty products, and rat rescuers! – The sugarglider site of SA. Reliable information and assistance with all aspects of glider keeping. – The House Rabbit Society pages where one can find a wealth of information and great ideas. – This site has some great info, however, please discuss an appropriate diet with an exotic vet as hedgehog diets will depend on the individual hog. Also please note that it is not legal to keep indigenous hedgehogs as pets without a permit. However, there are many types of hedgehogs available which are legal, as well as tenrecs.

BIRDS: – Great ideas for toys that can be made at home to keep a smart parrot busy and happy! – A range of purpose made foraging toys for birds, as well as information on the importance of foraging to a bird. These foraging products will be stocked at the clinic. – A site that all potential Cockatoo owners should visit before buying one of these wonderful but complicated and sensitive birds

Sponsor a Guide Dog

GDA trains on average 65 guide dogs per annum for the blind and visually impaired. The process is human intensive and our guide dogs are trained over and 18 month period. The first phase is spent with their “Puppy Raisers”, dedicated families and individuals who “adopt” a young guide dog puppy for 12 months. Thereafter the young guide dog in training returns to the GDA centre and is allocated to a qualified guide dog mobility instructor who will formally train the dog for a further 6 months until it is allocated to a blind recipient.

Costs are incurred during this period and GDA appeals to potential donor and sponsors to consider sponsoring a guide dog in the following two options:

  • Sponsor a puppy for R5 000
  • Sponsor a full guide dog for R10000

GDA only charges R5 per guide dog and R100 board and lodging when the blind person/s attend training with their new companions here at the training centre for three weeks!

The costs is far more than the R10000 sponsorship amount however it is a manageable amount for individual donors, groups and or companies – so we encourage you to sponsor your guide dog today!

You will receive a section 18 a receipt as well as a framed photo of your sponsored puppy or guide dog. As a sponsor you will also be invited to attend our graduation ceremonies which are truly inspirational and definitely an event not to be missed.

On completion of the form below a GDA representative will contact you to discuss your needs and tailor make a sponsorship package that suits you.

Sponsor Information Sheet FAQ

CLICK to Visit Hoogland Dierekliniek Website
CLICK to Visit Hoogland Dierekliniek Website