Frequently Asked Questions
When did OccuPaws start and why?
What is the cost of raising/training a guide dog?
How much does it cost a visually impaired person to get a guide dog from OccuPaws?
How much government money or insurance money does OccuPaws receive?
How do you make it financially then?
What do you do with the puppies that don’t make it?
Who is your Guide Dog Mobility Instructor & What are his/her qualifications?
Why can you bring your dog into almost anywhere?
What do I do when I meet a guide dog team on the street?
Can I pet a guide dog or a guide dog in training?
How long do guide dogs work before they retire?
How does the guide dog know where to go?
How do you match the guide dogs and students?
Do I have to be totally blind to receive a guide dog?
OccuPaws started in 2005 as an alternative to traditional guide dog schools. With most schools, the recipient must leave their home and family for about 4 weeks and move to a campus for training. With OccuPaws, we come to you and train you in your home, neighborhood, and town. OccuPaws is based in Madison and the dogs are placed with Wisconsin and contiguous state residents.
It costs OccuPaws $20,000-$30,000 to raise and train a guide dog.
Nothing! The dogs are given to Wisconsin and surrounding state residents FREE of charge.
OccuPaws is run solely with grants and donations from people like yourself. We receive no government or insurance support. (Click here for additional financial information)
OccuPaws is an all volunteer association except for our certified Guide Dog instructor who is funded through a private grant. All the funds donated go directly to support the program. (Click here to Donate to OccuPaws)
We try and find an alternate service dog career that may be better suited (diabetic alert, search and rescue, etc.) to the dog. If nothing fits, puppies/dogs that were born at Occupaws and are better suited as pets, are placed with families as career change dogs. Puppies that are donated by breeders often times have contracts with the breeder and are often returned to the breeder to find another career or home for the dog. The best interest of the dog is always our top priority. (Click here to apply for a career change dog.)
Deanne Miller is our Certified Guide Dog Mobility Instructor. She was certified as an instructor at Leader Dogs in Michigan where she spent several years training dogs and placing them with clients. She then spent several more years training service dogs and people with mobility issues. A couple more years were completed in Australia before joing OccuPaws.
Guide Dogs, by law, can go into most places with their handlers. The puppies, as part of their socialization training, are also allowed in most places so they can learn to be a good guide dog. (Click here for additional information on Access Laws)
If the handler is holding the harness handle and/or they are in motion, it is best to not disturb them or make eye contact with the dog. The team is concentrating on direction and obstacles. (Click here for additional information on Guide Dog Etiquette)
See question above, but if they are not working it never hurts to ask politely. Please don’t be offended if the answer is No. Also, the dog should greet you politely – If not, stop petting, ignore the dog and wait for the handler’s direction.
Most guide dogs are about 2 years old when they start working. Typically, the dog will work for 8-10 years. However, some dogs will have longer or shorter careers; the dog will tell you when they are ready to retire.
The guide dog doesn’t know where the destination is, so it must follow the handler’s instructions of how far to go and when to turn.
OccuPaws prides itself in finding the right match for each student. We primarily compare personality, lifestyle, and walking speed to find the ideal dog for each student.
No, you just need to be certified legally blind (which may include many different visual impairments).