Fosterer (formerly called a Boarder)

To provide a temporary home for a dog, and to follow the Guide Dogs way in relation to the welfare and handling of the dog or puppy. 

Fostering ticked all the boxes for me – having a dog at home around work, helping a worthy organisation, and developing a greater understanding and appreciation of what Guide Dogs’ trainers and dog care staff do.” 
Lindsay, Fosterer
On this page...

What you’ll be doing

We rely on volunteers like you to help us improve the lives of people with sight loss. In this role your support will include: 

  • For Training Fosterers: Dropping off the dog between 8-9am and pick up 5-6pm at a Guide Dogs site or a site near a trainers’ home. Local teams can discuss details and maximum travel time possible.
  • For Companion Dog Fosterers: We would collect from your home to train for periods of time, or ask for them to be dropped into the Guide Dog site but this would not be every day, therefore we need people who can care for the dogs on a day to day basis at home.
  • Being willing to provide a welcoming and safe environment for a dog or puppy for the time required. Providing a consistent home is particularly important for our dogs in training.
  • Ensuring the dog or puppy is fed and exercised as directed.
  • Embedding the same behaviour and commands as your supervisor.
  • In the event of an emergency, ensuring the dog or puppy receives veterinary care and Guide Dogs is informed immediately.

You’ll have

Ideally you will have: 

  • Enjoyment from working with dogs and have suitable accommodation.
  • Perseverance to help support the training of the dogs.
  • Good communication skills.

If you don’t feel you tick every box but are sure this role is the one for you, please drop us a message and tell us why. You may have something to offer that we didn’t even know we wanted and would love to talk it through with you to see what’s possible!

You’ll get

Volunteering is a two-way street, so in return for your time you will get a dedicated volunteer manager/key contact who will help you settle in and support you during your time with us. You’ll also get: 

  • An increase in dog knowledge and welfare.
  • The opportunity to care for and have the companionship of a dog for evenings and weekends or for short periods of time.
  • The satisfaction that you are part of a committed team with a pivotal role in providing guide dogs that enable people with sight loss to enjoy the same freedom of movement as everyone else.

Training and support

This role has 6-8 hours of mandatory training and then you’ll be ready to go! These modules include: 

  • Dog knowledge, care, handling
  • Handling younger and larger/ more active dog ned more training
  • If you have questions about the training requirements, we can answer these at your interview along with any other support or accessibility needs you may have. 

Volunteering for Guide Dogs should never leave you out of pocket. We’ll make sure we pay any expenses related to your volunteering with us in line with our policy. 

What we need from you

  • Criminal Disclosure check necessary? No

We are working hard to make sure anyone who wants to can volunteer for Guide Dogs, but at the moment we have a minimum age of 18 for this particular role. 


Meet Fosterers Gillian and Colin

Gillian and Colin’s daughter, Laura, had been pestering them for years to get a dog, but they weren’t ready to take on a full-time pet. Gillian also felt a bit nervous around dogs. Then a friend told them about volunteering for Guide Dogs and how they could help look after guide dogs while they are in training. Gillian and Colin’s family have fostered dozens of future life-changers. 

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 hassle and expense that comes with owning one.
Gillian, Fosterer

"We attended an open day at the Guide Dogs Forfar Regional Centre. We learnt that we could become guide dog fosterers and look after a guide dog during evenings and weekends while they are in training.

It seemed like the perfect solution for us. It meant Laura could get to experience taking care of a dog, but without the hassle and expense that comes with owning one. Guide Dogs would take care of the training and health checks.

A Guide Dogs Mobility Specialist carried out a home check and then several weeks later we were introduced to our first dog, Leric. I wasn't sure what to do at first, but I had no reason to worry. Once I got to know Leric's character, I realised he was going to be a great addition to our home."

That was 15 years ago, and Gillian and Colin’s family have since fostered dozens of future life-changers. They have photos of at least 23 dogs who went on to qualify after staying with them. 

“The dogs stay with us for up to 16 weeks during their training (although this can vary in some circumstances) – and we sometimes look after qualified guide dogs too if their owners are unwell or going on holiday. 

I love getting to know their characters. Some like playing with certain toys, some like a lot of fuss, and others love exercise. They might be working dogs but once the harness comes off, they're just like other dogs.

Colin drops the dogs off at training school on his way to work each day and collects them on his way home. At weekends, we take the dogs out with us so they get to experience new people and different places, just like they would as a qualified guide dog. They get plenty of exercise but also have time for a well-earned rest between training.    

The family has enjoyed fostering dogs so much that Gillian is now a volunteer speaker for Guide Dogs. And their daughter Laura now works for Guide Dogs as a Guide Dog Mobility Specialist – creating and supporting new life-changing partnerships. 

Fostering guide dogs is so rewarding. To know that we're a tiny cog in the process that gives someone back their independence."

Patricia Wood often takes her guide dog, Winnie, to stay with Gillian and Colin when she goes on holiday. The family first fostered Winnie while she was still in training back in 2014. Patricia says: 

“Winnie loves going to stay with them. Gillian phones me with updates so I can see how she's doing. Last year I broke my ankle, so Winnie stayed with them for a few weeks. I don't know what I'd do without them.”

Search for a volunteering opportunity near you

If you think you could become a volunteer fosterer for Guide Dogs, then the next step is to check if there is a opportunity available near you. You can use the search option below to find all volunteering opportunities near you and if you don't see a fosterer option - don't worry! We do update our opportunities all the time so make sure you check back in.