BREAKING NEWS

Frequently Asked Questions - Guide Dogs

Labrador Retrievers are currently the most popular breed used for Guide dogs. Most programs use Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, or crosses between Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers as guide dog candidates. Some programs use Labradoodles, Boxers, or Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. It is extremely rare for a private trainer to train a guide dog. Since very few programs would accept outside animals for training, other breeds are very difficult to obtain.

These breeds are chosen for their biddability, intelligence, ability and willingness to work long hours, ability to tolerate stress, good health, and public acceptability or recognition.

Originally guide dogs were primarily German Shepherds. They were selected because they were available (this was right after World War I), they were being very well bred to work, could work very long hours, were easy to train, and were good at working out problems or situations for which they were not trained.

Later most programs switched to Labrador Retrievers because the German Shepherds were not suited for many clients. Shepherds require confident owners with some skill at training and handling dogs. They can be hard headed and become destructive if not given enough mental and physical stimulation. In more recent years their public image has also deteriorated because of poorly trained dogs biting people.

Seeing Eye Dogs are just one "brand" of guide dog. Only guide dogs trained at the Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ are properly called "Seeing Eye Dogs." The generic term is "guide dog."

"Kiss," who was born in 1927, was later renamed "Buddy." She was trained in Switzerland by Dorothy Harrison Eustis for Morris Frank. He had written to Eustis asking if she could train a guide dog for a blind person after reading an article she had published on a guide dog program in Switzerland. The team completed training with Eustis in 1928 and made their debut in the U.S. the same year. The pair campaigned across the country for the opening of a school to train guides in the U.S. In 1929 the campaign succeeded with the opening of the Seeing Eye in New Jersey.

Eustis based her training program on guide dog programs then in operation in Switzerland and Germany. These programs no longer exist. The Seeing Eye is the oldest continuously operating guide dog school in the world still in operation.

Each guide dog program has its own policies and procedures for acquiring puppy raisers. Nearly all will require that you live close enough to their facility that you can make weekly visits to the facility for training classes. So the first step is to find a guide dog school near you. See the link below of guide dog schools in the U.S. to see if one is near you.
Nearly all programs will require that at least one person work in the home so that the pup is not left alone during the day. Since most puppy raisers are children, this means having at least one parent who is home during the school day and willing to take on responsibility for the puppy's training during that time. There is a link to the Seeing Eye's puppy raiser information below as a representative example of puppy raising programs for guide dogs.

Also check with your local 4H organization. Most have a Guide Puppy affiliate.
Look for a guide dog program near you. Nearly all programs require that their puppy raisers live nearby so they can attend weekly training sessions at the facility. Each program will have their own requirements as to how to apply to be a puppy raiser.

Several organizations for the blind maintain lists of guide dog training schools. Here are a few:
National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
American Foundation for the Blind
Guide Dog Users Incorporated (GDUI)
American Council of the Blind (ACB)

Where are guide dogs trained in the U.S.?
International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF)

First and foremost, a guide dog should have rock-solid nerves. He should be calm and confident, obeying even in the midst of chaos. He should not be easily frightened but also should not be ignorant of real danger when it presents itself. Just as you wouldn't want a guide dog who trembled at the sight of a passing car, you would not want one who stood happily in the road as one speed straight toward it. In other words, you want a dog with an abundance of good common sense.

He should be biddable, which means he should have a desire to please his master and to work as a team member, choosing to perform his job out of loyalty even when it is unpleasant and he'd rather be doing something else (like staying home warm in bed instead of out on the streets in the sleet taking his master to the pharmacy for essential medication).

He should be intelligent and trainable. He should be an excellent problem-solver because it is impossible to predict every possible puzzle a dog might encounter in his working life and he must be able to apply what he knows creatively in new situations to make safe and reasonable decisions.

The ability to exhibit "intelligent disobedience" is also prized. A guide dog intelligently disobeys a command to go forward when it would put his master in danger, such as when a car is coming. When the dog refuses the command, it falls to the owner to determine why and then make an informed decision on whether to proceed anyway, wait, or take a different path.

Since the typical guide dog doesn't begin his working life until he is nearly two years old, and he requires very careful rearing and training costing typically $20,000 to $30,000, a good candidate for guide training must be young enough and healthy enough to have a long working life. Guide dog candidates are screened for health issues such as hip dysplasia before they begin formal training.

Guide dogs should also be of an appropriate size: large enough to work in a guide harness (with its ridged handle that signals the owner) yet small enough to fit in small spaces under chairs and tables. Most guide dogs are German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, or Golden Retrievers.

Basically, you can't.

Guide dogs are trained by charitable programs such as the Seeing Eye, specifically for people who qualify as blind. If you are blind, you apply to a guide dog school and if accepted pay a nominal fee for equipment. Some schools retain ownership of the dog for it's life and it must be returned to them when retired.

If you want to adopt a retired guide dog, again, apply at a guide dog school. But these dogs are not sold, just adopted. The waiting lists are typically about three years long and you must pass a rigorous screening to qualify.
There are some Guide schools that do not charge anything for either the animal or the equipment, plus cover the costs for the required 28 days of residential training. Some also offer a yearly stipend to help with vet visits and annual vaccinations.

To puppy raise for the Seeing Eye (the most recognized guide dog school in the world), you must join 4-H, which requires you to be at least 9 years old. You must also have the support of your parents as someone must be at home during the day to care for the puppy and with you at school that means mom or dad.

The actual trainers, as opposed to puppy raisers, are adults.

Find a school near you and volunteer. Meanwhile, go to college and get a degree in animal behavior to make yourself more marketable. Volunteer at animal shelters rehabing dogs to make them adoptable. The more dogs you work with the more your skills will grow. Apprentice with a local dog trainer (guide or otherwise) to learn more dog training skills.

Each dog is an individual. The key to a good trainer isn't as much knowing theory as it is knowing dogs and how they think and being able to communicate effectively with them. Theory on guide dog specific training must be learned from the guide dog school, but the basic foundation of dog training theory is learned by working with many different dogs and needs to be a life-long commitment on your part. Most guide dog programs, such as the Seeing Eye, require a a college degree and an apprenticeship on top of basic dog training skills. For the Seeing Eye, that apprenticeship is three years.

If you pull together the skills needed, the school you volunteer and apprentice with may either hire you or give you a letter of recommendation to work for or apprentice with another school.

Her name was originally "Kiss," but this was changed to "Buddy" by her blind owner, Morris Frank. Frank renamed all of his subsequent guide dogs "Buddy," as well.

A guide dog is a dog individually trained to assist a person who is blind with navigation. They are trained to recognize and navigate around common obstacles such as pot holes, utility poles, curb cuts, mail boxes, and low-hanging branches, among other things.

There are several programs that train dogs to guide the blind. The most well known of these is the Seeing Eye, in Morristown, New Jersey. Only dogs that graduate from the Seeing Eye are properly called "Seeing Eye Dogs," all other dog guides are called "guide dogs."

In some countries the term "guide dog" is also used to refer to assistance animals of all kinds, but in the U.S., the term "guide dog" refers specifically to dogs who assist owners who are legally blind.

Most people who are blind are not totally without vision. Generally, a person is considered blind when their vision is below 20/200. In order to succeed with a guide dog, the person must have too little vision to allow them to try to guide the dog as this would damage the dog's training.

Guide dogs assist people who are blind. They indicate to their blind handler when an obstacle is in their path, usually by stopping and standing still. On command, they will attempt to find a way to navigate around the obstacle.

They can also be trained to find specific places and things on command. Guide dogs generally learn the places where the handler goes regularly, such as home or work. They can also find things like chairs, restrooms, and exits on command.

The first part of guide dog training is usually done by puppy raisers who socialize and habituate pups in their care and teach them basic manners and obedience under the supervision of a trainer from a guide dog school. This process typically takes 12 to 18 months. At the end of that time, guide dog candidates are returned to their schools for advanced training in obstacle avoidance, directed guiding, and intelligent disobedience.

Directed guiding ("left," "right," "forward," "wait") is taught by pairing the commands with the actions. It's the easiest part of the advanced training, but also the most used.

Intelligent disobedience is the process of recognizing when there is an exception to a command and disobeying out of duty rather than disobeying because the dog would rather do something else. For example, if a guide dog is given a command to "forward" into a street, but he sees a car coming, he will intelligently disobey the command to "forward" because it is dangerous to the handler to step in front of a moving car.

Obstacle avoidance is the most important safety skill of guide dogs and the one that most fascinates people curious about guide dogs. Once an obstacle is recognized, the dog is instructed to navigate around that obstacle. He must do so regardless of whether the best path lies to the right or left of the obstacle, and while taking into account not only his own path, but the path of his human partner. Guide dogs are also trained to recognize low hanging obstacles, such as tree branches, that could injure their partner and to navigate around them as well.

Here's one example of how obstacle avoidance might be taught:

Avoiding low hanging tree branches

The trainer approaches a low hanging tree branch with a cane held in front of her face. When the cane hits the tree branch it makes an audible cue to the dog that something has happened. The trainer might also say "ouch" or otherwise indicate an injury has occurred (good acting on the trainer's part is essential for this to work). The team will repeat this exercise with the same tree a few times until the dog is consistently navigating around the branch. Then the trainer finds another branch in another area for additional practice. Because dogs don't generalize well, it is important to practice the same concept (avoid low hanging branches) in several different locations and situations until the dog realizes all low branches and not just specific ones are to be avoided.

When a dog disobeys a command it means he refuses to do it. Intelligent disobedience means he has a valid reason for refusing to do it. For example, if a blind person gives a guide dog a command to "forward" and there is an obstacle in the path that could injure the handler, the dog refuses the forward command. When a guide refuses a command, it is then up to the handler to determine why and work out what to do about it.

Guide dogs are taught intelligent disobedience in a variety of ways. The most common is to use some level of aversive training methods. For teaching intelligent disobedience in a traffic situation, first the dog is taught how to safely cross a road with their trainer. This is done by stopping at the down curb, waiting for a “Forward” command to go forward then walking straight and directly across the road at a good pace to the opposite up curb. Most schools teach their guide dogs to stop at the up curb, indicating to their handler that they have reached the opposite side of the road successfully.

Once a dog can do this and shows no fear of the traffic, the intelligent disobedience portion is trained. Intelligent disobedience means the dog will willfully disobey a “Forward” or other command to move in a particular direction if it would place their handler in harm’s way. Most schools use other guide dog trainers in cars to train the intelligent disobedience in traffic situations. A trainer will sit in the passenger seat of the car with a soft nerf bat or squirt gun full of water and as the dog gets too close to the car, the trainer will gently correct the dog by batting them on the nose with the nerf bat or squirting them with the water gun. Most dogs do not like this and so the next time the car is in their path, the dog will stop to avoid getting to close at which point the trainer working beside the dog will praise and otherwise reward the dog for the correct decision. Once the car has crossed their path, the trainer will then cue to the dog to “Forward” and continue safely across the road to the up curb.

In order to prevent the dog from becoming shy of crossing roads or working alongside traffic, the trainer will set up the situations in the beginning so that the dog sees more situations with no traffic in their path then with a car in their path with a trainer in it that would correct them for getting too close. This ensures that the dog learns that if there is no danger of a car too close, they are still to cross the street quickly and straight across to the up curb.

As the dog improves, the situations are made more difficult until the dog can safely guide their handler from cars coming to close in front, behind and to each left and right side. Now with the new near silent hybrid cars many schools train with these types of cars as well, really teaching the dog to look for dangerous traffic situations that could harm them and their handler.

To teach the dog to avoid bringing their handler too close to an edge on a subway or train platform or other drop off, some schools teach it by having the guide dog trainer walk the dog very close to the edge and if the dog does not stop or turn away the trainer will actually “fall off” the edge, pulling the dog with them! Most dogs again do not like this as they like their trainer and do not want to see them “hurt” nor do they want to fall off the edge themselves so very quickly they learn to stop or turn their trainer away from the drop off that would put them in danger. When the dog makes the correct decision he is always praised and rewarded for doing so.

Guide dogs are better at identifying and navigating around low hanging obstacles and at learning frequently traveled routes by name. The guide dog can also offer suggestions on how to navigate around an obstacle. In a cluttered area, such as a construction zone, a guide dog can negotiate all of the obstacles faster than a person with a cane.
Canes give better information about the details of an obstacle, such as it's specific location, size, dimensions, and shape. While a guide dog would stop for a mail box in the middle of the sidewalk, he has no way to indicate to his handler that it is a mail box. With a cane the handler can quickly identify the obstacle. Canes also give better information on the texture of surfaces and the height of objects, such as chair seats.
People with canes experience far fewer access issues than those with guide dogs. The cost of obtaining and maintaining a cane is much less than that of a guide dog. A cane might be purchased for $50-$100 which is less than most programs charge for guide dogs. The cane requires little or no maintenance while the guide dog typically requires in excess of $6,000 in care (food, vet, supplies) over a lifetime.

A guide dog is much more than a pet. It is a person's eyes. Losing a guide dog is somewhat akin to losing one's sight all over again. Usually there is a transition period during which the old guide retires and a new guide takes his place. However, when a guide dies unexpectedly it can be very disorienting in addition to the grief someone might feel for the loss of a limb. Coping is pretty much the same as for any other great loss. It starts with disbelief, passes through anger and other emotions, and eventually ends with acceptance (hopefully). Since each person is an individual, each will experience the process in their own unique way.

The first guide dog was trained at least as long ago as the middle ages and probably before that as evidenced by woodcuts depicting dogs guiding the blind.

The first modern guide dogs, what we now think of as guide dogs, were trained during and after WWI in response to the need for guides for soldiers blinded in the war.

"Buddy" the guide of Frank Morris was the first Seeing Eye dog, which was founded in 1929. The Seeing Eye is the oldest guide dog school still in operation.

Eye of the Pacific Guide Dogs and Mobility Services, Incorporated
747 Amana Street, Suite 407
Honolulu, Hawaii 96814
Phone: (808) 941-1088
E-mail: info@eyeofthepacific.org
Web site: http://www.eyeofthepacific.org/

Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation, Inc.
P. O. Box 142
Bloomfield, CT 06002
Phone: (860) 243-5200
E-mail: info@fidelco.org
Web site: http://www.fidelco.org

Freedom Guide Dogs for the Blind
1210 Hardscrabble Road
Cassville, New York 13318-1304
Phone: (315) 822-5132
E-mail: freedomdog@wildblue.net
Web site: http://www.freedomguidedogs.org/

Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc.
371 East Jericho Turnpike
Smithtown, NY 11787-2976
Phone: (631) 265-2121; 800-548-4337
E-mail: info@guidedog.org
Web site: http://www.guidedog.org

Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc.
P. O. Box 151200
San Rafael, CA 94915-1200
Phone: (415) 499-4000; 800-295-4050
E-mail: iadmissions@guidedogs.com
Web site: http://www.guidedogs.com

Guide Dogs for the Blind, Inc. (Oregon Campus)
32901 Southeast Kelso Road
Boring, Oregon 97009-9058
Phone: (503) 668-2100
E-mail: information@guidedogs.com
Web site: http://www.guidedogs.com/

Guide Dogs of America
13445 Glenoaks Boulevard
Sylmar, CA 91342
Phone: (818) 362-5834; 800-459-4843
E-mail: gdaguidedogs@earthlink.net
Web site: http://www.guidedogsofamerica.org

Guide Dogs of Texas, Inc.
11825 West Avenue, Suite 104
San Antonio, TX 78216
Phone: (210)366-4081
E-Mail: larrytuttle@guidedogsoftexas.org
Web site: http://www.guidedogsoftexas.org/

Guide Dogs of the Desert International
P. O. Box 1692
Palm Springs, CA 92263
Phone: (760)329-6257
E-Mail: info@guidedogsofthedesert.org
Web site: http://www.guidedogsofthedesert.org/

Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Inc.
611 Granite Springs Road
Yorktown Heights, NY 10598
Phone: (914) 245-4024; 800-942-0149
E-mail: info@guiding-eyes.org
Web site: http://www.guiding-eyes.org

Kansas Specialty Dog Service (KSDS), Inc.
124 West 7th
P.O. Box 216
Washington, KS 66968
Phone: (785) 325-2256
E-Mail: ksds@ksds.org
Web site: http://www.ksds.org

Leader Dogs for the Blind, Inc.
1039 South Rochester Road
Rochester, MI 48307-3115
Phone: (248) 651-9011; 888-777-5332
E-mail: leaderdog@leaderdog.org
Web site: http://www.leaderdog.org

Pilot Dogs, Inc.
625 W. Town St.
Columbus, OH 43215-4496
Phone: (614) 221-6367
E-Mail: jgray@pilotdogs.org
Web site: http://www.pilotdogs.org

Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc.
4210 77th St. East
Palmetto, FL 34221
Phone: (941) 729-5665
E-mail: info@guidedogs.org
Web site: http://www.guidedogs.org

Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc. - Georgia Outreach
1535 Lake Paradise Road
Villa Rica, Georgia 30180
Phone: (770) 459-2051

Southeastern Guide Dogs, Inc. - North Carolina Outreach Program
11 Union Street South, Suite 210
Concord, North Carolina 28026
Phone: (704) 721-5000

The Seeing Eye, Incorporated
Post Office Box 375
Morristown, New Jersey 07963-0375
Phone: (973) 539-4425
E-mail: info@seeingeye.org
Web site: http://www.seeingeye.org/

Upstate Guide Dog Assn.
7926 Routes 5 and 20
Bloomfield, NY 14469
Phone: (585) 624-1074
email: webmaster@ugda.org
website: http://ugda.org

It depends on the age of the dog and where the dog is in training. If he has the fundamentals down and is working on proofing (performing learned behaviors in spite of distraction) then an active place like a busy shopping center might be a good place to find those distractions to practice ignoring.

If it's a pup being socialized and he's confident and outgoing, a busy shopping center gives ample opportunity to meet new people.

The key is to do it at the right points in the dog's development or training. Overfacing a dog by putting them into a situation too stressful or too distracting for them to process will only slow or damage socialization or training.

According to her great-grandniece, Keller Johnson-Thompson, she had several pet dogs but no guide dog:
"Although Helen had many dogs throughout her lifetime, she never used any of them as dog guides, as many blind people do today. But as she made her way through her gardens later in life, several dogs could always be seen at her side. Some of these dogs included a Great Dane named Belle, a Scottie named Darkie, German Shepherds, Collies, and even a Dachshund named Sunshine."

Most guide dog schools operate their own breeding programs. From a pool of puppies bred to become guide dogs, some candidates are chosen to be used in the breeding program instead. Both actual guides and the dogs used to produce them are selected for specific characteristics of temperament, health, and structural soundness.

Most breeding programs have the dams (mother dogs) whelp (deliver puppies) on site in special environmentally controlled whelping rooms. Pups must be kept at a higher than normal temperature during their first weeks.

Neurological stimulation exercises and socialization are begun at birth. As the puppies grow, pathways form in their brains that will affect how they learn in the future. Early stimulation (handling and exposure to new experiences in sites, sounds, smells, and touch) helps to guide how those pathways form.

Once the pups are weaned at about eight weeks, they are placed in homes with families to raise them until they are approximately a year old when they are returned to the training program for advanced training and placement with a blind person.

It was called "Love Leads the Way."

David Permut and Jimmy Hawkins produced this movie and Delbert Mann directed it. It was made for the Disney Channel, and premiered on October 7, 1984. It was based on the book, "First Lady of the Seeing Eye" by Morris Frank and Blake Clark. A German Shepherd named Pilot played Buddy with help from trainer Ron Bledsoe. It was filmed on location in Nashville, Tennessee and Leavenworth, Washington. The running time is 99 minutes. The cast includes Timothy Bottoms, Ernest Borgnine, Glynnis O'Conner, Susan Dey, Patricia Neal, Arthur Hill, Richard Speight Jr, and Ralph Bellamy.

A guide dog is taught a variety of behaviors and signals that the user will then "command" the dog to respond. The dog is also taught intelligent disobedience, such as to disobey a given command that if obeyed would result in harm or death to a user.
The human handler tells the dog where to go. The dog may also learn through repetition paths that are frequently taken by name, such as "home" or "office."

---------------------------

In the USA and throughout the world, the majority of guide dog programs require handlers to be a minimum of 16 years of age (a high school sophomore) to apply, go through training and be partnered with a guide dog. This age minimum is to ensure that the handler is old enough to be fully responsible for the proper care and well being of their canine partner as well as have enough independent travel and mobility skills to properly keep up on the dog’s extensive training.

There is currently at least one guide dog program in the UK and one in the USA that is open to partnering teenagers as young as 13 years of age with guide dogs. These children go through the same process as any other guide dog applicant for being partnered and trained with a dog, and they must have at least 2-3 regular routes that they will work their dog on to keep up with the dog’s skill and training as well as have support from their family and school system to properly care for and work the dog on a regular basis. Many of the dogs partnered with these younger visually impaired individuals are dogs that are less active and would not meet the more active and demanding needs of an adult guide dog user.

A large portion of the cost is absorbed by volunteer puppy raisers who teach the pups basic manners including where and when to toilet, how to walk on a leash, basic commands like "sit" and "down," and how to live among humans without jumping up, bolting out doors, or mooching food.

Formal training with professional trainers who teach the dogs how to actually guide a person who is blind typically costs around $20,000. If puppy raisers were paid, this cost would probably double. Most guide dog training programs are funded by charitable donations so the cost to the blind owner is modest compared to the actual cost of training these highly skilled dogs.

The majority of guide dog handlers or white cane users utilize one or the other- either a guide dog or a cane at any time. The majority also have normal dexterity in both the left and right hand. Most guide dogs are trained to work on the handler’s left side, leaving the handler’s right hand and arm open for carrying and holding things. Most cane users handle their cane in their dominant hand, either left or right as the case may be. This also leaves the opposite hand and arm open for handling other objects. For those individuals who do not have normal dexterity in both hands or arms, or who have something unwieldy or too heavy, many use a back pack or other bag on their back. Others use fanny packs or similar carrying devices.

It's a common misconception that dogs are color blind. They aren't. Dogs don't see the same range of colors that humans do, but they do see color.

However, guide dogs are trained to automatically stop at all intersections, regardless of traffic lights. The dog is unaware of the lights and is focused only on finding the curb or other obstacle that might be in his master's path. It is then up to the human handler to listen for the sounds of traffic to determine which direction it is going and when it is safe to cross.

The exact testing is up to the individual program training them. Each will set up their own criteria. However, the test would include working in public navigating around common obstacles, including low-hanging obstacles and traffic.

Health testing would include an evaluation of the dog's hip structure by x-ray, chest x-rays, hearing tests, CERF (eye test), thyroid function, and cardiac function as well as a full blood panel to check overall function of internal organs.

It is an unfortunately common mistake to use these terms interchangeably but they do not mean the same thing. Only guide dogs that were trained at the Seeing Eye facility in New Jersey can properly be called "Seeing Eye" dogs. It's like a brand name. There are vehicles and there are Fords. All Fords are vehicles, but not all vehicles are Fords.
The Seeing Eye is the oldest guide dog training school still in operation in the world. It is the most famous and the most recognized and this is probably why people get confused.

From the official Seeing Eye website:

"Quite frequently, people ask us, "How can I become a Seeing Eye instructor?" Staff instructors are full-time employees who hold college degrees from various fields of study and have successfully completed three years of specialized on-the-job training. They relate well to dogs and people and are physically fit, since their jobs are physically demanding and involve working outdoors in all weather. Some of our current instructors came from teaching, business consulting and rehabilitation fields. Some were in the military and worked with dogs before, and many started out as kennel assistants here at The Seeing Eye."

Pups in the Seeing Eye program are typically 7-8 weeks old when they are sent to live with 4-H families to receive socialization and training in manners and basic obedience. They are typically 14 to 18 months old when they are returned to the Seeing Eye for advanced training.

The Seeing Eye is just one of many programs that train dogs to guide the blind. Individual programs may do their puppy raising differently.

The Seeing Eye is the oldest and most recognized guide dog training program in the world.

No. Most people who are blind prefer to use a blind cane to aid in avoiding obstacles.

Some cities exempt guide dog owners and other service dog owners from scooping laws, but most do not. There is no need for an exemption because blind people are just as capable as sighted people in doing most things, including cleaning up after their dogs.

A person doesn't have to see poop to pick it up. Like anyone else, a blind person knows which end of the dog is which, and the dog only toilets on command so they know the when and where of poopology. A hand is inserted in a plastic poop bag like a glove and the hand is run down the hind leg of the dog to the dump zone. Then the scooper feels around for the warm squooshy stuff, grasps it, and turns the bag inside out. It's exactly the same for a sighted person who walks their dog at night and must scoop in the dark.

Puppy raisers generally receive their wards at about 8 weeks of age and return them to the guide dog center at around 14 months for formal training.

Typically the actual working part of a dogs training takes between 3 and 9 months - after the puppy stage and "being a good pet" training is finished. This is why many organizations use volunteer puppy raisers - it helps get their dogs through the basics with very little expense (most training organizations run on donations alone). Other groups scour rescues and adopt adult dogs who have already gone through the puppy stage... and yet others place their dogs in their future homes as puppies to help the bonding process along.

There are too many programs and independent trainers to accurately count how many guide dogs are in place in the world or even in the U.S.
The most recognized program in the world that trains Guide dogs is the Seeing Eye in Morristown New Jersey.

The Seeing Eye reported in their 2007 annual report that they had 1,760 graduate teams in the field.

Guide dogs are better at identifying and navigating around low hanging obstacles and at learning frequently traveled routes by name. The guide dog can also offer suggestions on how to navigate around an obstacle. In a cluttered area, such as a construction zone, a guide dog can negotiate all of the obstacles faster than a person with a cane.

Canes give better information about the details of an obstacle, such as it's specific location, size, dimensions, and shape. While a guide dog would stop for a mail box in the middle of the sidewalk, he has no way to indicate to his handler that it is a mail box. With a cane the handler can quickly identify the obstacle. Canes also give better information on the texture of surfaces and the height of objects, such as chair seats.

People with canes experience far fewer access issues than those with guide dogs. The cost of obtaining and maintaining a cane is much less than that of a guide dog. A cane might be purchased for $50-$100 which is less than most programs charge for guide dogs. The cane requires little or no maintenance while the guide dog typically requires in excess of $6,000 in care (food, vet, supplies) over a lifetime.

They don't.

The human handler is responsible for listening to traffic and knowing from which direction it is coming. Sometimes you can hear a grinding click sound when the lights change, while in some countries there is an audible beep to tell the blind when the light has changed.

If the handler gives a "forward" command and the dog sees or hears a car coming at them, the dog disobeys the "forward" command. So the dog focuses only on the cars, not on traffic lights.

A person doesn't have to see poop to pick it up. Like anyone else, a blind person knows which end of the dog is which, and the dog only toilets on command so they know the when and where of poopology. A hand is inserted in a plastic poop bag like a glove and then the scooper feels around for the warm squooshy stuff, grasps it, and turns the bag inside out. It's exactly the same for a sighted person who walks their dog at night and must scoop in the dark.

Some cities exempt guide dog owners and other service dog owners from scooping laws, but most do not. There is no need for an exemption because blind people are just as capable as sighted people in doing most things, including cleaning up after their dogs.

See also
How do blind people scoop poop?