Can I adopt a failed or retired guide dog? | TeamDogs

Can I adopt a failed or retired guide dog?

Here’s everything you need to know if you’re thinking of rehoming a guide dog

Phoebe Jobling

Posted 6 months ago ago

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Those who may have seen documentaries such as Pick of the Litter on Netflix, or have sound knowledge about guide dogs, will know that unfortunately not all dogs who are trained as guides make the cut.

Whether that’s down to their health, skills, behaviours or difficulty to train, dogs who aren’t picked to become guide dogs are politely renamed ‘career changed’ dogs. 

So, what happens to those dogs who are ‘career changed’ and can they be adopted as pet dogs instead? 

Furthermore, once a guide dog retires from its duties, do they stay with their handler or can they be adopted by a new family?

Here’s everything you need to know if you’re looking to adopt a special furry friend.

Is it possible to rehome a career changed or retired guide dog?

You can adopt a failed or retired guide dog and this often happens in the UK. However most of the time there are more people looking to rehome guide dogs than there are adoptable dogs available. 

Guide Dogs, the UK's largest breeder and trainer of working dogs, said they receive endless inquiries every year from people who are interested in adopting their dogs.

They said: “Dogs can be withdrawn from our training programme or from their role as a guide dog at any stage, or some dogs may retire, and we look to rehome them.

“Dogs that are not suitable for our work make great pet dogs. Some just don’t have the temperament to become a guide dog, some have a health condition that means they are not suited to our type of work and some simply retire. 

“Many of our retired dogs will stay with their owner or a member of their family or friend but this is not always possible.”

How can I adopt a failed or retired guide dog?

Adopting a failed or retired guide dog is not a simple process and it may take some time until you are matched. 

The selection process is usually based on suitability rather than on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

The easiest way to adopt is by approaching a guide dog charity, breeder or training organisation. Usually they will have an application process where you can express your interest in adopting and you are then added to the waiting list. 

Guide Dogs, for example, have a strict dog placement programme where staff individually screen and select a home for each dog. 

Before the adoption process begins, prospective adopters must be assessed and their homes are checked thoroughly to determine their suitability. 

After careful review, only those individuals who qualify are kept on file. Then, by searching the available applications in the database, Guide Dogs develop a list of potential matches. 

Guide Dogs said: “Considering the dog's strengths and weaknesses, our staff spend hours reviewing the applications and talking on the phone with several potential adopters to find a home that seems best suited for a particular dog. 

“Once we feel there is a possible match, the potential adopter is notified of an available dog. The dog is described in detail, both the positives and negatives. It is very important that we are straightforward about the dog.”

Why are some guide dogs put up for adoption?

The guide dogs that are up for adoption are either career changed or retired.

Career change dogs are those that have been withdrawn from training before becoming a guide dog and are typically between 12 to 18 months old. 

These dogs may have health or temperament related problems that make them unsuitable to work as a guide dog, however that’s not to say they won’t make the perfect pet. 

Working guide dogs usually retire after nine to 11 years and after this time they may become available for adoption. 

It is common for a guide dog to remain with their owner or his/her family after they retire however this isn’t always possible. 

In this case, retired guide dogs are then put up for adoption to enjoy their hard-earned retirement with a loving new family.

Which dogs are available for adoption?

As Labradors and Golden Retrievers are typically the most popular breed of guide dogs, they are the most common dogs up for adoption.

However, some charities and organisations may also have Labrador cross Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Poodles available too. 

Most of the career changed dogs will likely be between one and two years old. It is possible that they may have a health condition that requires ongoing treatment or it may be that they have some behavioural issues such as separation anxiety or poor lead behaviour.

Can I adopt a guide dog puppy?

Most guide dog charities and organisations do not rehome young puppies.

This is because they want to allow their dogs to reach a certain age before making a decision as to whether or not they can become a working guide dog. 

How much does it cost to adopt a guide dog?

The price of adopting a guide dog can vary however Guide Dogs state that adopters will be asked to pay a rehoming fee of up to £500. 

Guide Dogs say: “All of our dogs are neutered, microchipped, health checked and have regular preventative treatment against worms and fleas. Those that rehome one of our dogs will be taking on all costs.”

Why don’t retired guide dogs stay with their handlers?

If the guide dog owner wants to, they can keep their retired dog as a pet and acquire a new, younger dog as their guide dog. 

They can also nominate a friend or family member to rehome their retired dog. 

If neither of those options are suitable, the guide dog will be made available for the general public to adopt as a pet. 

However, it is often that after rehoming a retired guide dog, the rehomer will be asked to keep in contact with the original owner as the dog has been their companion for a large part of their life. 

Why might I be turned down for adopting a dog?

There are a few reasons why individuals may not be eligible to adopt a career changed or retired guide dog.

Firstly, due to the fact that guide dogs are used to constant human companionship, it is essential that they are adopted by an individual or family that can give them a lot of time and attention. 

This means that if you work full time and the dog is likely to be left alone all day, this could be a huge factor that stops you from being able to adopt a guide dog. 

Guide Dogs said: “Our criteria is that the dog is left for no more than 4 hours in a 24 hour period. We do not count dog walkers, being dropped off at another home or people letting the dog out at lunchtime. Our dogs are highly socialised with people so do not like being left or taken elsewhere from the family home as many have very specific needs.

“The reasoning behind this is that the dogs are with people 24/7 while they are being puppy walked and then in the initial stages of training, and we found that in the past if we rehome to families who were out all day the dogs became destructive as they were bored and also lonely. This meant that we had a high percentage of dogs being returned.”

Another reason may be because the guide dog isn’t good with other pets. 

Guide Dogs added: “We are always open to rehoming a dog with other pets including cats if appropriate. However, not all of our dogs may be suitable and some may prefer to be the only pet. 

“Each case is dealt with on an individual needs basis and this will always be discussed with the rehomer.”

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