In Home Training: What’s Up with That?

By Emily Simone, GDB Field Service Manager

I have been with GDB for 20 years. I was an instructor for the first ten years, training new and retrain students at our California campus. For the last ten years I’ve been a remote field service manager. In this role, I work from a home office in Central California and work daily with GDB graduates in a large geographical area, which covers all of Central California and the entire state of Colorado.

In mEmily Simoney current role as a field service manager, I wear a lot of hats: trainer, behaviorist, vet assistant, orientation and mobility specialist, grief counselor, transportation specialist and even occasionally a light housekeeper!

It may be surprising to hear that I also continue to instruct new and retrain students with new dogs. How am I able to do this? Through a small but successful program we call “In-home” or “Domicile” training. GDB strives toward making our services available to all qualified applicants. In cases where leaving home to receive Guide Dog training may create a hardship for an individual, in-home training may be an option. In-home training qualification is determined by GDB and with client input. The following are some common reasons an applicant may receive in-home training:
  • Health: The client has very fragile health considerations and asking this type of client to train outside of his home and away from regular medical care and equipment is unsafe and unreasonable. Common health issues that may warrant in-home training include: regular/inflexible medical support needs (such as regular dialysis); necessity to utilize critical medical equipment that can’t be easily transported (such as oxygen); a health disorder that requires intensive, regular support that cannot be effectively managed by GDB’s campus nursing staff.
  • Family issues: Clients that have very young children or care-giving responsibilities to other family members, and no practical access to child-care or adult care assistance may qualify for in-home training.
  • Work: Clients that cannot get appropriate time off their job to come train at one of our campuses may qualify for in-home training, depending on their job commitments and other factors.
  • Age: A person's age may also be a consideration if GDB staff feels bringing a client in to train would be an unreasonable strain on the client’s mental and physical health, or could jeopardize their success.
I have conducted numerous in-home trainings in the last ten years. Each experience is challenging and inspiring. As the instructor, my priority is to teach the client the current training methods and practices that they teach in the residential training programs. This means staying up to date on all current training methods currently taught in class.

The training program length depends on the individual. I’ve conducted most in-home training in approximately 10-17 days. The client is heavily involved in directing his/her program and they identify specific areas and environments on which they would like to focus, i.e. the route from home to work; mastering the bus system; learning a college campus, etc.

There are some clear advantages to training a client in their own home:
  • The client is familiar with the area and able to work with the new dog without ALSO having to learn the lay-out of a new dorm and city.
  • The client is often more relaxed and less stressed, since they remain in their comfortable, familiar environment and routine.
  • The new dog can be immediately oriented to the client’s home, routine and relieving area, and any potential challenge can be addressed promptly.
  • The schedule is demanding but is often more relaxing than the dorm schedule and routine.
  • The instructor is present to educate family and work colleagues on guide dog etiquette and inclusion within the family dynamic.
Over the years I have also found that in-home training is not perfect. Clients can be distracted by home/work/family issues and may not effectively focus on the new dog. Staying in the home environment can lull clients into lax routines that can sabotage work with their new dog. In-home clients miss the fabulous experience of being in class and on campus—and being a part of a group of students and GDB’s community. Often, they miss graduation. This is sad for both the client and the puppy raiser, though most are able to connect in a meaningful manner after the training.

GDB has an excellent residential program and it is very effective and successful for the vast majority of clients we serve. By offering in-home training as an option to those who qualify, we have an opportunity to enhance the independence of as many qualified clients as possible. There is clear value in having both programs available.


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