Boarders are volunteers who look after our dogs - trainee guide dogs, guide dogs and former guide dogs - in their own home.

Trainee guide dog boarder

Yellow labrador in a yellow harness

Guide dogs are trained at the four guide dog training schools and twenty mobility team offices around the country (and in a small number of locations where our Guide Dog Mobility Instructor is home based). The training is in two stages - “early” training which takes about 16 weeks and “advanced” training which takes 10-12 weeks.

Historically most of our dogs lived in kennels during their training. However we have found that dogs living with a boarder learn better and make the transition into home life with their new guide dog owner more easily. As a result, we are looking to place as many dogs as possible with boarders. Boarders bring the dog to the training school or mobility team office each morning and take it home again each evening. They also look after the dog at weekends and over bank holidays. Some instructors are home based and can pick up and drop off the dog during the day (however this is less common).  The dog usually stays with its boarder for the whole training period as moving homes can be unsettling and disrupt its learning. This means that boarding periods are usually:

  • 10-12 weeks - for a dog in “advanced training”
  • 16 weeks - for a dog in “early training”
  • 26 weeks for both early and advanced training

You don’t need any previous experience of dogs to be a boarder as we provide full training, usually two sessions, as well as ongoing support and training from Guide Dogs staff. However the role does demand a high level of commitment. We ask that boarders:

  • Bring the dog to the training school or mobility team office each weekday morning and collect it again each evening. Check with the nearest Guide Dogs office for the situation in your area.
  • Live in a home with a secure garden and an area of hard standing or a yard
  • Undertake our boarder training programme
  • Follow Guide Dogs rules for dog care and behaviour

Trainee dog boarders enjoy part-time doggy company without the responsibility of owning a full-time pet dog. It suits lots of different lifestyles: young people out at work all day, families with children, older people wishing to pursue retirement activities.

"I love dogs," says Steve, Training Dog Boarder- Redbridge, "but having my own dog wouldn’t be practical as I’m at work all day. Boarding a trainee dog means that I can enjoy having a dog in the evenings and at weekends and at the same time know that I’m playing a part in enabling a blind person to be more independent.”

Respite Boarders

Sometimes a dog needs a full-time home for a short period. This could be because it has been withdrawn from training, usually for a health or behaviour issue, or it has retired as a guide dog and is waiting for a new, permanent home. It is not always easy to say how long a dog will stay - usually between a few days and a month (sometimes a little longer if it has health or behaviour issues that could increase the time it takes to find the right home). We ask that respite boarders:

  • Live close enough to one of our training schools or mobility teams to be able to collect or drop off a dog at either the four guide dog training schools or one of the twenty mobility team offices around the country
  • Live in a home with a secure garden or yard
  • Be at home most of the day (dogs can’t be left for more than four hours) or be able to take the dog to work
  • Undertake our boarder training programme
  • Follow Guide Dogs rules for dog care and behaviour

It is useful (although not essential) for a respite boarder to be able to take a dog at short notice. You don’t need any previous dog experience as we provide full training. As with training dog boarding, it is usually two sessions.

"We’ve had several of our own dogs over the years, but since we’ve retired we’re keen to see a bit more of the world. Being a respite boarder means we can have a dog when we’re here but not have the worry of leaving our pet and wondering if it’s all right when we go away” - Joan and Brian, Respite Boarders - Redbridge

Support and Training

As well as the training sessions before a boarder has a dog, Guide Dogs provides any additional training a boarder might need and lots of support and advice whilst the dog is staying.

We supply all the food and equipment the dog will need and pay any vets bills. Dogs are covered by Guide Dogs liability insurance whilst they live with a boarder.


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