Training with a guide dog

  • Many people who have a guide dog still have some remaining vision. So you do not have to have lost all your sight to be considered for training with a guide dog. You need to have significant sight loss which is affecting your ability to walk independently to the places you would like to go, but not necessarily to be formally registered as blind or partially-sighted.
  • People from all walks of life can be trained to become guide dog owners, regardless of their ethnic or cultural background. People may or may not be in employment, and may live in cities, towns or rural communities. Everyone's living circumstances will be individual, and dogs can be accommodated into a wide range of circumstances.
  • People who can benefit from a guide dog may have health conditions or additional disabilities alongside sight loss.
  • You are never too old to be considered for training with a guide dog. People of all ages benefit from guide dog ownership, and people in their 70s, 80s and even 90s become successful guide dog owners. Becoming a guide dog owner depends more on being well motivated, and having the aptitude to be trained to handle a guide dog, rather than a matter of age.
  • It can cost very little to have a guide dog, the training is free, and essential equipment is provided. Some people choose to cover the cost of dog food and vet bills for themselves. However we recognise that owning a dog can be costly, so if people would like Guide Dogs to help cover these costs in part or in full we are only too happy to help. All a person is asked to pay is 50p after qualification with their dog ? the rest is their choice!
  • People develop a very close relationship with their guide dogs, which in itself can be an extremely rewarding and fulfilling experience. A guide dog is not always working, so owners will spend a lot of their time relaxing and playing with their guide dog and ensuring the dog receives the attention it needs. This also helps establish a level of respect and trust between the dog and owner which is needed when they are out working together.
  • A guide dog is trained to guide its owner in a straight line unless told otherwise, avoiding obstacles on the route. It will stop at kerbs and steps and find doors, crossings and places which are visited regularly; it will guide you across the road, but it is up to you to decide where and when to cross safely. The guide dog and its owner are a partnership, with the owner giving commands and encouragement and telling the dog which way to go. The dog is not a miracle worker, but for some people it can offer a unique, safe and effective way of getting about independently.
  • We mainly use Labradors, golden retrievers and crosses of these two breeds. We have a small number of other breeds that we use less frequently. Different breeds of dog have different characteristics, which supports the differing needs of the many people training with guide dogs.
  • As with any animal, a guide dog requires day-to-day care, including grooming, feeding the correct diet, exercising and organising regular visits to the vet. Guide dog owners are taught all they need to know about caring for and working with a guide dog during their training course.
  • No previous experience of keeping or caring for a dog is necessary, as everything will be taught during the training period. The training course, which may take place residentially or at home, lasts for between two and three weeks and after this our staff continue to support the new and developing partnership.
  • A guide dog normally retires at approximately 10 years old. The retired guide dog can remain with its owner, who may go on to train with a replacement guide dog. If the guide dog owner is unable to keep two dogs, there are two options: they can nominate someone to re-home their retired guide dog, or re-homing can be arranged through Guide Dogs' formal re-homing process.
  • Often, people who approach Guide Dogs are not sure if a guide dog will be right for them. We are here to talk about it, and to help people decide whether or not to apply. If an application is made, a full assessment will follow which allows both the person and Guide Dogs to find out if a guide dog is the right mobility aid for them.