Living with a guide dog FAQs

Living with a guide dog

The guide dog’s behaviour in the house is of great importance and the dog must be aware right from the start of what is acceptable. It should never be allowed on furniture and should not be encouraged to bark or become over-excited, nor should the dog be allowed to jump up at people.

You need to remember that it is a working dog, so behaviour at home will affect how the dog works when out with you. It is your responsibility to maintain the dog’s training to ensure it behaves and responds correctly.

During training we ensure that you receive enough advice to be able to look after the physical and mental welfare of your dog. This includes advice around environmental enrichment, free running and rest. The advice will also be tailored to the dog and depend on the amount of work that will be required of them. It is likely that a guide dog will be free run less than a pet dog due to the amount of work they carry out. This can often be a concern to a new guide dog owner, or family and friends, however it is important to make the distinction between a working dog and a pet dog. You will be required to take your dog to the vet every six months for a routine check-up and worming. In addition, your dog will need to be weighed on a regular basis.

Although there are bound to be some changes, the guide dog should fit into family life with little disruption. It is essential that the family understands the importance of following the guidelines given to the guide dog owner and supports the owner in settling the dog in. The owner must always be supported as ‘the boss’ and should be the one to feed, walk and discipline the dog. In the owner’s temporary absence, it is helpful if a family member is able to maintain the same consistent approach.

Guide dogs are used to interacting with children, so there is little difficulty with them fitting into family life. They may need a little time to get to know each other, but if, initially, the dog is allowed to approach them there will be no problem. The dog’s bed should be its sanctuary and children should be encouraged to leave the dog in peace when it goes there.

No. We try and discourage guide dogs from sniffing and scrounging so they are concentrating while working. Giving the dogs titbits encourages them to look for food on pavements, which means they are not looking where they are going!

It is perfectly acceptable to leave the dog with a trusted friend or family member and all guide dog owners are requested to ensure they have someone they can turn to when they need their dog looking after. In an emergency such as being taken into hospital, then our staff will arrange short term care if alternative arrangements are not immediately available.

Legally, yes, provided your dog has a pet passport (although not all countries are in the pet passport scheme). If this is something you will need to do there are issues you will need to consider, and we would encourage you to discuss this with us early in your enquiry.

The full working life of a guide dog is rarely longer than eight years, dependent on the dog and its working conditions. The retired guide dog can remain with its owner, who may go on to train with a replacement guide dog. If you are unable to keep two dogs, there are two options: you can nominate someone to re-home your retired guide dog, or re-homing can be arranged through Guide Dogs' formal re-homing process.