Puppies Take Flight: 200+ Guide Dogs Trained at Newark Airport

Hundreds of puppies recently took over part of Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) as part of their training to become guide dogs for visually impaired travelers. The two-day training exposes the future guides to the sights and sounds of travel.

Collaborating closely with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA); and United Airlines, the training is conducted annually with The Seeing Eye, a national nonprofit organization headquartered in Morristown.

“Even for the most seasoned fliers, navigating through an airport can be challenging,” said Port Authority Executive Director Rick Cotton. “This partnership with The Seeing Eye helps create a better travel experience by familiarizing our airport staff in assisting those who are visually impaired.”

The Seeing Eye has been training guide dogs at the airport for 25 years before the COVID-19 pandemic put it on hold in 2020. After a three-year hiatus, the program was re-started in May 2023.

“These outings provide important exposure and prepare each puppy for their future as a Seeing Eye dog,” The Seeing Eye CEO Peggi Howard said in a statement last year. 

“The puppy raisers look forward to our visits to Newark Liberty International Airport, and we are so grateful to the Port Authority, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration and United Airlines for continuing to welcome our volunteers and puppies,” Howard added.

How the Training Works

Throughout the training sessions, these future guide dogs received comprehensive instruction tailored to their essential tasks. From mastering the intricacies of guiding individuals on and off planes to navigating baggage areas, security checkpoints, boarding gates, and the Airtrain, these pups underwent rigorous preparation to be prepared for their roles.

Prior to their airport training, these puppies spent a year with volunteer families, where they received essential socialization, obedience training, and housebreaking. Following this foundational period, they returned to The Seeing Eye for an intensive four-month formal training program under the guidance of professional instructors, teaching them the skills needed to guide individuals with confidence.

Upon completing their training, these pups will be matched with blind or visually impaired individuals, offering them newfound independence and companionship on their journeys. For those interested in supporting this cause, further information can be found at seeingeye.org.

The Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey

Founded in 1929, the Seeing Eye is the oldest guide dog school in the country and one of the largest. The campus includes student dorms, a veterinary care center, kennels, plus a breeding station in Chester, New Jersey.

Its mission is to enhance the independence, dignity, and self-confidence of blind people through the use of Seeing Eye dogs. The organization:

  • Breeds and raises puppies to become Seeing Eye dogs;
  • Trains Seeing Eye dogs to guide blind people;
  • Instructs blind people in the proper use, handling, and care of the dogs;
  • Conducts and supports research on canine health and development