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The Guide Dog Team

Sarah with her blonde Guide Dog Ally, looking at her smiling surrounded by beautiful sunlight

Each Guide Dog Team has a very special bond. They build their working relationship through trust, loyalty and love for one another. It is important to realise that Guide Dogs have limitations and it’s the combination of both the handler’s and Guide Dog’s skills that allows for safe and successful travel.

Matching

Dogs that successfully complete the rigorous Guide Dog training program are matched with a potential handler. This is an important process, with our Orientation and Mobility Instructors ensuring that the dog is well-suited to the person’s specific lifestyle and travel needs.

Team training

Once matched, the new team needs to build trust and establish a bond, as well as learn how to travel together. The pair undergoes five weeks of intensive training with an experienced instructor. As the working bond grows, the complexity of the environments increases. The handler learns the commands for directing the dog, while the dog learns its handler’s travel routes. Over time, the dog learns how to guide its handler to an increasing number of destinations.

The handler’s responsibilities

A male and female guide dog owners, walking their Guide Dogs- one blonde one chocolate labrador

Once training has been successfully completed, handlers are wholly responsible for the care and well-being of their Guide Dog. This includes making sure that their Guide Dog has plenty of play and downtime to relax and just be a dog!

Retirement

Once a Guide Dog begins to show signs of ageing such as slowing down, arthritis or other medical issues, it is time for the handler to decide if the dog should be retired, and if so where it will spend its twilight years.

In many cases these dogs stay with their handler’s family as a pet. If this is not feasible they are placed with another suitable family or individual who has expressed an interest in taking care of these hard working dogs in their twilight years. In fact we have a very long waiting list of people and families who would love to look after a retired Guide Dog.

Sue Ellen and her Guide Dog, Prada
Sue-Ellen and her Guide Dog Prada are inseparable.

Read how Prada is supporting Sue-Ellen