Matching guide dogs to owners

Matching is the process we use to carefully pair guide dog owners with their guide dogs to ensure a happy and successful partnership.

We take our time to match you with a guide dog who's the best fit for your individual needs. Only through careful choices and understanding both a guide dog owner and our dogs can we create a life-changing partnership that is right for you both.

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What is a partnership?

A guide dog partnership is when someone with a vision impairment has been partnered with a guide dog to help them get out and about, and live the life they choose.  

Your guide dog will help enhance your life in lots of ways, however, it’s important to remember that your dog is an individual with their own needs, and you’ll need to look after their health and wellbeing. We believe in recognising each dog's uniqueness so that we can create the ideal match. We prioritise every dog's mental and physical health and wellbeing because a happy dog means a contented and more successful partnership for both of you.

In 2022 we created 387 new guide dog partnerships and supported a total of 4,065 partnerships.

How are guide dogs matched? 

Our matching process is about forming bonds that change lives. By understanding your needs, as well as those of our guide dogs, we make sure your personalities, routines, and future plans align to create lasting partnerships.

When you apply for a guide dog, we ask about your lifestyle, preferences, and individual needs. An assessment then takes place to help us understand your mobility, daily routines, and expectations for your future guide dog partnership. This helps us find a guide dog who is just right for you, setting the stage for a strong partnership.

There are lots of different things we consider when matching dogs and owners, and these include:

  • Lifestyle and routine: We aim to truly understand your lifestyle, challenges, and likes and dislikes. So, if you enjoy walking, we’ll try to match you with a dog who's just as keen to stride out as you are.
  • Getting around: Whether you're a frequent traveller on buses, trains, or trams, or if you prefer to explore on foot, understanding your transportation habits is key to finding a guide dog who's comfortable and confident in your travel scenarios.
  • Health and physical considerations: We consider factors like your physical mobility and overall health. We also think about your height, walking pace and your gait.   
  • Work and looking ahead: Your workload and commitments are important considerations. We want to understand the demands you face and any potential changes ahead.
  • Home and environment: We take a thorough look at your home, outdoor space and the daily activities that take place in your space. We also consider your family members, other pets, and anything that might affect your future partnership.
  • Caring for your guide dog: Your ability to meet the welfare needs of a guide dog throughout their lifetime. 
When matching dogs and owners, I’ll consider lots of different factors, including the person’s lifestyle, walking speed, the type of transport they might need to take, the level of sight they have, their support network and the length of the routes they will work together.
Barry, Guide Dog Mobility Specialist

What breed of dog will I get? 

We have a range of different breeds at Guide Dogs, including Labradors, golden retrievers, German shepherds and crossbreeds. Sometimes, different breeds can offer certain characteristics, but every dog and person is a complete individual; matching the right dog to the right person is one of the most important aspects of our jobs. A guide dog that meets your needs is never the wrong breed. 

Training with your new guide dog 

Once a potential match is made, you can meet your potential guide dog. This initial introduction is the start of your journey together, although sometimes you might meet more than one potential match so that we can assess the best fit. When a match is confirmed, we work with you both to tailor a training programme to meet your needs, so you have every chance for a successful partnership

We work alongside you to help you and your guide dog to build trust and a strong bond. We’re with you every step of the way with ongoing support and training and to answer any questions or concerns you might have.

Get in touch

Call our Guide Line to speak to an expert who can provide information and advice - we're here to help. We're open 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday (except bank holidays).

0800 781 1444