Guide Dog Foundation

About Us

History of GDF


     In 1946, after World War II, five progressive civic leaders founded "Guiding Eyes, Inc." near the New York metropolitan area to provide guide dogs at no charge for the blind or visually impaired students, including veterans who had returned from the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific. 

    They located William Holzmann, a dog trainer, and hired him to develop a method of training. That year they graduated their first two graduates, Vito Vero and Arthur Torgersen. The original office was located in Forest Hills, Queens. The space was limited and resources were scarce.

    In the late 1940s, the present Smithtown, N.Y., property was purchased. In 1949 the name was changed to Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, Inc. There was a kennel, but there were no residential facilities for the students. The students were put up in rooming houses in the local area. Mr. Holzmann trained the dogs in groups of six to eight (which we call strings), and at that time it was estimated to cost between $3,000-$4,000 to train a string of dogs.


    In the 1960s, under the direction of two English trainers, the Foundation combined a blend of English and American techniques which we continue to use today. Also, at that time they began the breeding program with Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. In fact, many of the guide dogs that work today are descendants of those original dog.


    Today, the Guide Dog Foundation maintains its training campus in Smithtown on the original property, which is about 40 miles east of New York City. It is easily accessible to all modes of transportation. The campus consists of administrative offices, students' residence, state-of-the-art kennel and a puppy nursery. The eight-acre site also includes an obstacle course and a Japanese garden for our students' enjoyment.


    The Guide Dog Foundation continues to provide guide dogs free of charge to blind people who seek enhanced mobility and independence. In addition to providing Second Sight® through the use of our guide dogs, the Guide Dog Foundation offers extensive public education vehicles to broaden society's understanding of vision, visual impairment, blindness, and disability rights.