Lara Guide Dog School: About Us
Lara was the first guide dog in Greece, brought to the country by her guide dog handler Ioanna-Maria Gertsou. Lara was the reason Lara Guide Dog School was created back in 2008 as a non profit civil partnership. Her owner wanted to provide other visually impaired people with guide dogs offering them the chance to “see” through their eyes. Lara Guide Dog School is the only such school presided by a blind person who also happens to be an active guide dog handler herself, activist, psychologist at a greek hospital.
So, why are guide dogs so important? Imagine how many obstacles a visually impaired person is confronted with in their every day life: Narrow pedestrian streets with trees, tactile paving often covered with coffee tables and chairs, traffic lights lacking a sound system, buses not always equipped with functionable telematics announcing the next stop.
A guide dog has been trained to avoid any obstacles, obey up to 25 demands (find chair, lift, steps, find solution, find door, bin, etc). When the Labrador is about 18 months old, they have completed their basic and guide dog training as well as the co-training with the visually impaired person who will become their handler. They are ready to escort them anywhere safely, have free access anywhere in Greece according to the legislation and become part of their life.
Guide dogs at Lara Guide Dog School undergo positive reinforcement training, based on food, verbal and non verbal reward. First, a puppy is selected and taken from a selected Labrador breeder at the age of 2,5-3 months old and lives with a puppy raiser for about a year. This is the socialization and basic training stage, as the puppy is integrated in the puppy raiser’s life and learns to obey under a dog instructor’s guidelines. When the Labrador is about 12 months old, the guide dog training starts, followed by the matching stage, when the guide dog in training and the candidate guide dog handler are co-trained.
Lara Guide Dog School provides visually impaired people with guide dogs for free. In spring 2022 we also launched our first Mobility & orientation classes with a white cane offered to visually impaired living in rural areas.
We are always grateful to our supporters and sponsors for kindly funding our programmes.
Lara Guide Dog School is a proud member of European Guide Dog Federation (EGDF).
Members of administrative council
President: Ioanna Maria Gertsou
Vice President: Christos Georgiopoulos
Member: Giuseppe Mattei