Guide Dogs for the Blind Selects Dreyfuss + Blackford for New Puppy Center at National Headquarters

August 16, 2016


San Rafael facility designed to help more puppies reach their potential to become life-changing guide dogs

(SAN FRANCISCO) – Construction is expected to start in early 2017 for a new, single-story, 28,000 square-foot Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) Puppy Center in San Rafael, Calif. Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture (D+B), in collaboration with Animal Arts Design Studios of Boulder, Colo., designed the puppy birthing and enrichment facility as a premier addition to the existing national headquarters campus.

The Puppy Center was designed to protect and nurture new puppies for the first 10 weeks of their life. It enhances the environment and development of canine behaviors conducive to producing qualified guide dogs while helping GDB meet its goal of serving more clients over time. “This center is a welcome addition to the campus, and functions much better for the organization’s needs. The puppies have a life-changing role and we wanted to make sure the staff, volunteers, and canines have a positive experience there,” said Jason A. Silva, AIA, LEED AP, design principal at D+B, and the project designer.

Building Features

The Puppy Center’s highly-visible location is easily accessible from the campus core and maintains a nestled view of the campus edge from the south portion of the facility. The new site has a significant amount of space around the perimeter for outdoor yard areas. All outdoor kennels, exercise, and enrichment areas are covered and secure with large enclosures for brood exercise and puppy socialization.

Additionally, the new center design allows the public to be educated, engaged, and better connected with the puppies through educational displays and multiple venues to observe enrichment and training. “We are really looking forward to the educational component in the hope we gain more awareness of our organization and connection to our mission,” said Christine Benninger, president of Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Puppy Nursery – Whelping & Neonatal Pods

For ease of observation, the neonatal pod houses 19 kennels in a linear open layout. Medical areas are located in the center and socialization and breeder custodian visitation rooms are at each end of the neonatal pod. Outdoor yards at the exterior of the neonatal pod provide moms a place to stretch and have some time away from their puppies.

During and immediately following birth, moms are housed inside their own whelping kennel with their newborn puppies. Smaller exam areas in close proximity to the whelping kennels allow the moms and puppies to receive medical care near their kennels.

Young Heroes Academy

After six weeks, puppies are weaned and moved into the puppy pod which houses 30 kennels. Here, litters are divided into two to four puppies per kennel. An indoor enrichment space with moveable partitions allows staff to work one-on-one with individual puppies or in groups. An outdoor puppy track and enrichment area is viewable by the public, and is used for training puppies to walk on leash and expose them to outdoor stimuli.

Learning Lab

Inside the main entrance a Learning Lab allows visitors to observe each of the enrichment areas to see how puppies are socialized. Real Life Rooms, simulating typical rooms in a house, are located just off the Learning Lab, allowing GDB staff more socialization opportunities to prepare the puppies for their future careers. This educational center will also serve to expand the public’s understanding of GDB’s mission.

Building Systems

Although GDB is not currently seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for the building, the project was designed to meet standards for CalGreen Tier 1 by incorporating specific design innovations into the project.

Biological Risk Management

The new building integrates best practices for biosecurity and disease control protocols and also improves the work environment for kennel staff and volunteers. “It’s very important that GDB be able to safely raise future generations of guide dogs in a healthy and comfortable facility. The design minimizes the likelihood of fomite (surface) transmission, aerosol transmission, or transmission through direct contact, ensuring the puppies are at their healthiest when they transition to their raiser homes,” said Heather Lewis, principal at Animal Arts, and the center’s animal care designer.


The facility is designed to meet standard best practices and provides additional creative strategies for reducing, isolating, and preventing unnecessary noise.

Air Quality

Established best practices in mechanical systems will be employed at the facility to ensure fresh air is circulated throughout kennel pods and then exhausted at the back of the enclosures, preventing recirculation of odors and any potential contaminates.

Radiant Heating

Radiant floor heating is also used for comfort of the dogs and to aid in drying the floor quickly. It is designed to run in only one portion of the enclosures so that moms and their puppies have a choice of whether to be on the warm floor or not.


As dogs are physiologically similar to humans, daylighting provides the same healing benefits to animals as it does to us. It helps maintain circadian rhythms and saves money in lighting costs. In this facility, artificial lighting will step down when daylight levels are high enough to reduce the need to use more artificial lighting than necessary.

Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture

Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture, founded in ­1950 in Sacramento, Calif., with an office in San Francisco, is a mid-size firm headquartered in the California capital. The firm serves corporate, public, and institutional markets with solutions achieved through collaboration and innovation. Committed to a sustainable future, D+B brings expertise in architecture, master planning, interiors, graphic design, and construction services. Recently completed projects include The Shop at VSP Global, CLARA Performing Arts Studios at Fremont School, and the Yolo County Woodland Superior Courthouse.

Animal Arts Design Studios

Animal Arts, specializes exclusively in veterinary hospital and animal shelter design. They have a proven track-record of success with over 600 projects in 40 states, Canada, Dubai, Singapore, Japan, and Australia.

Guide Dogs for the Blind

Guide Dogs for the Blind is more than an industry-leading guide dog school; it is a passionate community that serves the visually impaired. With exceptional client services and a robust network of trainers, puppy raisers, donors, and volunteers, GDB prepares highly qualified guide dogs to serve and empower individuals who are blind or have low vision. All services are provided free of charge and GDB receives no government funding. GDB is headquartered in San Rafael, Calif., with a second campus in Boring, Ore. More than 14,000 teams have graduated since the founding in 1942, and there are approximately 2,200 active teams in the field.

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