Would a guide dog help me?

Guide dogs assist many people who are blind and vision impaired:

  1. Guide dogs help their users to travel around independently and safely, giving their users more independence, freedom and confidence.
  2. Guide dogs make navigating streets much less stressful by assisting their users to find locations, avoid obstacles and stop at kerbs.
  3. Guide dogs make it easier for the person who is blind or vision impaired to use public transport, navigate shopping centres and buildings, find doors, seats and pedestrian crossing buttons.
  4. Guide dogs provide companionship and promote social inclusion.
  5. Making friends becomes easier when you have a guide dog. Members of the public often show an interest in a guide dog and stop to chat.

Am I eligible for a guide dog?

Eligibility requirements vary between each Guide Dog organisation. For a guide dog to be of benefit to you, you may be:

  1. totally or partially blind or vision impaired. Some people may also have a hearing loss,
  2. in good physical and mental health,
  3. able to take care of your dog,
  4. able to interact well with your dog and control it when out in the community,
  5. requiring a dog for mobility purposes because you find independent travel challenging,
  6. able to travel on your own (applicants need to have received Orientation & Mobility training).

Not everyone is suited to working with a dog and there are many factors that have to be taken into account. Each application is individually assessed by an internationally qualified Guide Dog Mobility Instructor. If you contact a guide dog organisation servicing your area, they will work with you and help you decide if a dog is for you.

Do I need to be formally registered as blind to apply for a guide dog?

No. Many guide dog users are not formally registered as blind or partially sighted and many guide dog users still have some vision.

Can I still apply for a guide dog if I have some sight?

Yes. However, you would need to use your residual vision to assist rather than hinder the guide dog. If the dog senses that you are perfectly capable of negotiating obstacles, for example, then he/she may stop guiding you. You will need to discuss this with your interviewer.

Can I still apply for a guide dog if I have other health issues or physical disabilities?

Many visually impaired people with additional needs have succeeded in qualifying for a guide dog, including those with diabetes, hearing loss, cerebral palsy, stroke victims or amputees. Some organisations have services for those who are both deaf and blind, however, in these cases, the dog has been trained to act as a guide and not as a hearing dog. Once you have contacted a guide dog organisation in your area, they will be able to discuss your individual needs.

Can I still apply for and train with a guide dog if my first language is not English or I cannot speak the language of the country in which I live?

Guide dog organisations use the language of their region/country to train the dogs and converse with their blind and vision impaired clients. Most schools will use interpreters to train and work with people who cannot converse in the local language as their first language. Enquire with an organisation servicing your area and ask them.

How do I apply?

Please go to the list of International Guide Dog Federation members in the Find a Provider section of this website and find an organisation that services the area where you live. Follow the links to that organisation’s website and follow the directions on their website. Alternatively, you can contact the International Guide Dog Federation office through the “Contact Us” link on this website and we will help you with your application.

How much will a guide dog cost?

In most cases, there is no cost to you. Most guide dog organisations fundraise to cover the costs of providing dogs. Some organisations receive some funding from insurance companies. Most will cover all costs including training, equipment, travel to and from training, accommodation and board while are you in training and follow up services. However, you may need to buy your dog a food and water bowl, warm bedding and toys as well as cover ongoing food and veterinary costs. Some organisations contribute some food and veterinary costs.

What kinds of dogs do you use?

Most schools use predominantly Labradors and Golden Retrievers. A few Guide Dog organisations use mainly German Shepherds. Your dog will be carefully selected based on your specific mobility needs, physical capabilities, walking speed, your ability to handle a dog, personality, size and work and home environments.

Can I take my guide dog everywhere?

In many countries you can. In these countries there are Disability Discrimination laws that make it illegal to ban guide dogs from public places, taxis and public transport. In these countries, guide dogs are welcome in shops, restaurants, cinemas, theatres and hotels. They are also allowed to travel free on all public transport including buses, taxis, trains and planes, as long as they are appropriately secured. In most cases, employers are happy for the guide dog to come with you into the workplace. In other countries, these laws have not yet been passed or enforced, making it difficult for guide dog users to get around. Ask you guide dog organisation about where you can take your dog.

What does the training involve?

The training varies between guide dog organisation and depends on whether you are being trained with your first or a subsequent dog. In many organisations the training runs for 3-4 weeks for first dog users and maybe half that for experienced users receiving a new dog. With an instructor’s support, you will learn everything you need to know in order to work successfully with your Guide Dog. This includes learning how to feed and take care of your dog. You will go on training walks with your dog to a variety of locations including shopping centres, city and rural streets and on public transport. You will receive evening lectures about topics such as grooming your dog and access laws. It is your training instructor’s job to make sure both you and your dog know what to do and how to work well together.

Will I get follow up support?

In many guide dog organisations you do receive follow up support. The support occurs more frequently in the first few months after graduation and less frequently through the remainder of the dog’s 8-10 years of its working life. In this case, your instructor will visit you at home to provide post-training support. It generally takes up to a year for a dog and its new owner to get accustomed to working together in perfect sync. In addition, organisations will often provide you with follow up training and support if you move house, change jobs or schools/college.

What does a guide dog do?

A guide dog is trained to guide its owner in a straight line unless ordered otherwise. The dog will avoid any obstacles en route, above or around you. It will stop at stairs, doors and kerbs. The dog will not decide where to go; it is up to the vision impaired person to instruct the dog on the direction for the dog to go and the dog will safely guide the person as instructed. The vision impaired person will already be familiar with regularly travelled routes and the dog will quickly become familiar with these too.

The dog will not decide when to cross the road and cannot read traffic lights. Usually the vision impaired person will use their hearing to evaluate traffic. If the handler gives the dog a ‘forward’ command, the dog will only proceed if it is safe. In this way, the guide dog and his owner become a partnership, with the owner giving commands and the dog ensuring that it is safe to proceed.

How do I look after my dog?

During training you will learn how to feed and take care of your dog. You will need to take your dog to the vet for regular check ups.

When will I get my dog?

Once the guide dog organisation has evaluated your specific needs, they will begin the process of matching a suitable dog to those needs. You will then be invited to attend training with your new dog and the venue of your training will vary depending on the guide dog organisation. Training may occur at the organisation’s training centre, at a convenient hotel or at your home, depending on the organisation. Once you begin training with your dog, which may take 3-4 weeks, you will start to bond with your dog and assume some duties of care for the dog. Generally, depending on the guide dog organisation, you receive your dog to take home and have as your guide and companion once you have graduated from the training.

What if I am not sure if a guide dog is right for me?

To find out more about whether a guide dog is for you, speak to a guide dog organisation servicing your area.

Apply for a guide dog

To find out more information about applying for a guide dog, please go to the Find a Provider section of this website to find your closest guide dog organisation.  Contact that organisation and they will be able to help you.

Most guide dog users claim that their dogs have given them an extraordinary level of independence and a new lease on life that far surpasses any other mobility aid. Contact a guide dog organisation and discuss this amazing relationship and how it can help you.