Professionally trained guide dogs start their training as soon as they have been weened. The initial training can take 10-12 months. In this period puppies learn basic training. They master commands like sit, stay, come, and other commands that most people who have dogs as pets expect their dogs to learn. These puppies will not be pets though. They are in training for important work.
At the end of the puppy training stage, there are a series of evaluations that are done to determine if a dog is fit for duty. This evaluation period can be 2- 3 months long. Many dogs are eliminated from training during this time. All of them would most likely be excellent fur kids but lack one or more of the qualities necessary to become a professional guide dog.
Guide dogs need to be good-natured, intelligent, observant, and not easily frightened by noises or crowds. They must also be able to adapt to changing situations without being distracted. It takes a very focused individual to become a guide dog and one who is also very forgiving and loyal without being aggressive. Breeds that are best suited for this kind of work include Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and german shepherds. That doesn’t mean that a mutt or other breed of dog cannot be trained, however.
Once a dog is matched with an owner/client they will go through a few weeks to a month of training together to strengthen the bond they will need to work together and teach the dog any other skills she will need to do her job. These special dogs work for 7-9 years depending on the demands of the job and the physical fitness of the dog, much like K-9 cops these dogs usually retire with their owner, but in some cases get adopted by a new family.
The dogs and the people who train them take the training very seriously. It really takes a special dog to become a true guide dog. These dogs are not pets or fur kids. These dogs are trained, professional caregivers. It is important to remember that if you encounter such a dog in public. They need to stay focused so please do not approach them or try to feed them unless you have the express permission of the owner.