Adopting Guide Dogs
How to Give a Guide Dog a New Home
Guide dogs are noble creatures, specially trained at the hands of thousands of volunteers across the country to serve those in need of some extraordinary assistance. But since not all dogs are up for this unique challenge or may be ready to retire, they are reassigned or adopted by eligible dog lovers.
The qualifications to be certified as a guide dog are numerous and rigorous and some can’t quite meet the requirements of special needs people. In other circumstances, licensed guide dogs are retired or given up by their owners for other reasons.
Most organizations call this reshuffle a “career change.” That means these highly trained canines go on to serve their community in other ways such as pet therapy, cancer detection or search and rescue. Others can be adopted through local guide dog organizations.
Dropped but Not Forgotten
According to Guide Dogs for the Blind, dogs are generally reassigned for the following reasons:
- About 60 percent of dogs are hyperactive, need strong handling or don’t mesh in households with children or other pets.
- Another 40 percent are disqualified for medical reasons varying from allergies, to cataracts and hip or elbow dysplasia.
Give a Guide Dog a Home
Organizations that adopt out guide dogs have extensive waiting lists. (In fact, Guide Dogs of America currently has a six year wait list for hopeful owners!) But dogs aren’t adopted on a first-come, first-serve basis. Rather, dog’s needs are matched with owners who can offer the best homes.
Dogs are adopted as companion animals and aren’t meant to take on rolls as guide dogs. The average age of an adoptee is 1-2 years old and includes breeds such as German shepherds, golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers.
Guide Dogs for the Blind places an estimated 210 career change dogs from its California and Oregon campuses each year. Since the dogs can be dropped from the training program at any time, the amount of training for each dog varies.
The level of veterinary care each dog has received varies by organization but in most cases dogs have been spayed or neutered, have received their vaccinations, heartworm preventative treatments, and eye examinations as well as hip and elbow X-rays.
Become a Volunteer
Rather than wait out a long adoption list, a great alternative is to become a trainer. Through Guide Dogs for the Blind, trainers receive an eight week old Labrador or golden retriever. Dogs stay with their trainer for about the next year, while they are socialized, house trained and regularly presented with all sorts of new people, places and experiences.
Mick Aguilera, resident “Puppy Stork” at Guide Dogs for the Blind, says qualified trainers have to be able to dedicate their time to training the dog and provide a safe home. Volunteers have to be at least nine years old, but many families raise and train potential guide dogs together.
“The traits we look for in all of our puppy raisers are dependability, the ability to work well with other raisers and their club leaders, and the ability to be ‘Ambassadors’ for Guide Dogs for the Blind,” says Aguilera. “Without our puppy raisers our job would be impossible.”
Guide Dog Adoption Resources
No matter how one might choose to adopt, it’s always best to make sure that you have the time, patience and room for a new, furry member of the family. Keep in mind that there are thousands of pets who need good homes at shelters and rescue organizations in cities across the country.