5 reasons why you should volunteer to look after a future guide dog rather than getting your own dog

Author: Volunteering
  • Inspiring People
A volunteer kneels down next to a Labrador dog

How would you like to be greeted to a waggy tail in the morning, without buying a dog of your own? You too can reap the benefits of having a furry companion without the financial burden. We have several volunteer roles at Guide Dogs where you can raise and train a future guide dog in your home.

There’s our Puppy Raiser role, where you look after an 8-week-old puppy for around 15 months in your home, teaching them the basic skills they need to kickstart their career as a guide dog. If that is too much commitment for you, there is also the Fosterer role where you provide a loving home, for a slightly older dog in training during the evening and weekends for around 20 weeks.

We have many more opportunities to volunteer with our dogs, all varying in commitment and age of the dog you will be looking after. But why should you choose to volunteer to look after a dog rather than getting one of your own? We have put together the top 5 reasons why you should join the Guide Dogs family and volunteer with our dogs!

1. We cover the cost of ‘owning’ a dog

Having your own dog can come with serious cost implications. With the ongoing cost of living crisis, it is not a surprise that 24% of people said they’d adopt a dog if the costs were covered, and there are many people who are worried about getting their own dog due to the cost involved!

Volunteering at Guide Dogs means that you don’t have to worry about the food or veterinary costs that come with having your own dog, we cover all the bills for our dogs, so you never have to worry about it. We also provide you with a variety of educational toys for the dog and any specific equipment needed for the care of the dog e.g., a crate or baby gate. This means that you can have the benefits of a dog in your home without the cost implications!

Volunteer fosterer Gillian is sat in her living room with her arm raised holding a dog toy as guide dog in training Margo sits under her hand looking up towards the toy.

Fostering guide dogs was the perfect solution for us. It meant our daughter could get to experience taking care of a dog, but without the expense that comes with owning one.

Gillian, Fosterer

2. We have roles to suit your lifestyle and time commitment

Getting your own dog is a serious life decision for people to make, as they have to decide whether they will be able to look after an adorable puppy for its whole life. The average lifespan of your furry companion is around about 12 years for a purebred and around 13 years for a crossbred. Therefore, it is a big commitment deciding to give a dog it’s forever home. 25% of people were deterred by the idea of commitment that is likely to be more than 10 years when it comes to owning your own dog. Many people don’t know where they will be in 10 years’ time, so it can be a scary thought committing to owning a dog.

Volunteering with Guide Dogs, means you do not have to commit to looking after a dog for any length of time. We have roles which vary from a couple of days to 15 months. And even if you sign up for the full duration, and for whatever reason you’re unable to continue, our team is on hand to support you and arrange alternative care.

You can look after as many dogs as you wish, and our roles come with the flexibility that you can take a break for as long as you need between dogs. No matter how long you want to volunteer for and no matter what life throws at you, we will be there to support you every step of the way.

Volunteer fosterers Ron and Prisca sat on their garden lawn with black Labrador Nesta

Every now and then we have a little break and the minute Guide Dogs ring to ask about our availability, I say, ‘why have you got one!?’ and the next minute we have another dog.

Ron and Prisca, Fosterers

3. We’ll teach you techniques from our world class dog training programme

Getting your first puppy can be tough, there are a lot of behaviours that a puppy will display that you might not know what to do about them. You can get lost in the midst of Google trying to find the perfect solution - with a million different answers. In fact, 18% of people feel that they don’t have the relevant experience required to look after a dog, so you wouldn’t be alone.

Volunteering for Guide Dogs means you never have to be up all night searching through Google. We have a team of volunteer managers who are there to support you through your journey of looking after a future life-changer. They are available for you to contact with any questions that you might have and will provide you with 1-2-1 support on what your dog might need. On top of this, you will have access to our world class training programmes, which give you all the information and guidance you need to train your dog, and how to look out for any unwanted behaviours. You can even use this training on your own dog or any future pets!

Volunteer puppy raiser Daisy walks in the woods with her two children and puppy Flo

Guide Dogs have the Puppy Raising for Excellent Partnerships (PREP) programme where you learn everything that you need to know. You get online training, lots of support, Zoom chats, puppy training classes, you don’t need prior dog experience!

Daisy, Puppy Raiser

4. We’ll expand your social circle

The social element of having your own dog is for some people, one of the reasons they get their own dog. In fact, 28% of dog owners said that having a dog gave them a topic of conversation when speaking to new people and for 25% it played an active part in their social life.

At Guide Dogs we are a massive family, and we like to bring volunteers together, so they have a chance to meet each other and can rely on each other for support if they ever need it. We organise social events for all our volunteers to attend, we have local training classes for you to meet other people in your local area and we have set up Facebook groups so you can meet fellow volunteers in your role. We ensure the support is always there if you need it and to give volunteers the opportunity to meet new people.

Volunteer puppy raiser Andy sits on a bench with his puppy which is facing the camera and is wearing a Guide Dogs 'puppy in training' jacket

The Guide Dog community is brilliant and we’ve made some new friends in the process.

Andy, Puppy Raiser

5. You’ll help someone with sight loss to live the life they choose

Arguably, the biggest benefit of volunteering for Guide Dogs, is knowing you are a huge part in changing the life of someone with sight loss. Experiencing the rewarding feeling of seeing the dog you have looked after transform, as they progress through their training, to be potential a future guide dog. In fact, 64% of our Puppy Raisers are motivated to do the role because they want to support people with sight loss.

Without our volunteers, we would not be able to train as many guide dogs as we do and therefore, would not be able to match as many people with sight loss with a guide dog. Our volunteers are fundamental in helping us achieve our aim of helping people with sight loss live independently, actively, and well. And there is no greater feeling than knowing you are part of that journey of achieving that aim.

Volunteer puppy raisers Kirsty and Phil walk down a supermarket aisle with their puppy

I guess you never get quite used to them leaving you, but ultimately you get this sense of fulfilment that your puppy is likely to go on to be an amazing dog that will change someone’s life. That triumphs everything.

Kirsty and Phil, Puppy Raisers

For volunteering opportunities near you, please visit www.guidedogs.org.uk/volunteering.

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