Is my family suitable for a companion dog?

Welcoming a companion dog into your home is an exciting prospect but there’s a lot to think about first. It’s important that you’re prepared to look after a dog and that a companion dog is also the right choice for you.

At present, our new companion dog service is only available for adults with a vision impairment who have sighted support within the household. Our aim is to expand our service through a series of pilots throughout 2021 to enable us to reach more people impacted by sight loss that may live alone or without sighted support.

Here are the key things you need to be aware of before you apply for a companion dog.

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Once we’ve found a suitable dog, we call the prospective owner. It’s great phoning to say we have a match and knowing that the dog is going to make a difference in their life.
Jo, Canine Assisted Partnership Specialist

Making the most of a companion dog

We want to be sure that our companion dogs are going to homes where they’re going to make a positive difference in some quite specific ways. Are these the sorts of benefits you’re hoping a companion dog will bring?

  • A more active lifestyle from walking with your companion dog
  • Feeling better emotionally
  • Increased confidence and independence
  • More opportunities to meet new people and create better relationships
  • An improved sense of wellbeing

You and your household 

We take the welfare of our dogs and also of the people who come into contact with them very seriously. That’s why we need to ask: 

  • Is there a sighted adult in your household who can support you with caring for your companion dog, including walking them safely on the lead and exercising them off the lead? If you would have to rely regularly on a dogsitter or someone who doesn’t live with you to take care of the dog, then a companion dog won’t be right for you.

  • Will everyone in your household treat the companion dog with respect? It’s particularly important that children understand and follow clear boundaries around dogs.

  • Is anyone in your household afraid of dogs?

  • Do you have any health conditions that could be made worse by a dog, such as anxiety, asthma, eczema or epilepsy? (We’ll ask for more information during the application process.)

  • Are you aware of any significant life changes that could take place in the first 12 months after being partnered with a companion dog? That would include the arrival of a new baby or young child into the household, emigrating or a change in your employment circumstances.

  • Does your household already have more than one other pet dog? This is to make sure that there’s a clear need for a companion dog and that any other dogs won’t be negatively affected by the arrival of a companion dog.

Looking after a companion dog

Just like any pet dog, a companion dog has physical, mental and emotional needs. To ensure they enjoy a good quality of life, you’ll need to be able to provide the following:

  • A quiet space and a comfy dog bed for your dog to relax in.

  • A secure garden or outside space where they can go to the toilet.

  • The appropriate food and access to fresh water at all times.

  • An hour of exercise every day, whether that’s a walk or playing in the park.

  • Plenty of mental stimulation through play, toys and time with their human companions.

  • Not leaving them for more than four hours in any 24 hours.

  • Being able to afford the costs of having a dog, including food, vets’ bills and flea or parasite treatments.

Your commitment to training and support

As part of being partnered with a companion dog, it’s important that you’re motivated and committed to learning about dog handling, taking care of a dog and how to apply the advice you’ve been given.

As part of that, we ask that you commit to attending all the training, support and annual check-ins. There will be a mix of webinars and in-person sessions, with the in-person sessions being held at one of our Regional Guide Dog Training Sites, which are in Forfar (Scotland), Belfast (Northern Ireland), Atherton (North of England), Leamington Spa (Midlands) and Redbridge (South of England).

Training sessions are really fun and hands on. We teach people how to handle and look after a dog, explain what equipment they’ll need, including toys, and they get to meet some of our dogs. They practice walking on a lead, free running, recall and how to have fun with the dog.
Jo, Canine Assisted Partnership Specialist
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Got some questions?

If you have any other questions about the companion dog service or the application process, you can contact us on

0800 781 1444

Ready to apply?