Guide dogs are exceptional companions. They are raised from puppies to have a very important role in keeping their blind handlers safe at all times.
As puppies, potential guide dogs are placed with foster owners from around 6-8 weeks old, and they will go on to complete their formal guide dog training between 12 months old and 16 months old.
Most guide dogs will train for around 20 weeks, and undergo an assessment to see if they are suitable for assisting people. Then, they will be matched with an owner or service user.
But, what happens when the dog becomes too old to be a service animal? Can they be rehomed? Let’s find out.
Can You Keep A Retired Guide Dog?
When a guide dog or service dog reaches the age where it is time for them to retire, and live out the rest of their lives without working, there are a few options. Firstly, the owner or handler can choose to keep the dog as a pet, which many of them do.
Having a guide dog for a number of years can make it hard for the owner to give them up when they retire, but sometimes the owner may not have the capacity to keep the dog as a pet, and may require another service animal to help them with their day to day lives.
So, owners can either choose to keep a retired guide dog, and care for them alongside the successor dog who will be a service animal, or they can return the dog to the service animal organization, or rehome them.
How To Rehome A Retired Guide Dog
As mentioned above, most retired guide dogs will be returned to the service organization or company that the handler received the dog from if they cannot care for them as a pet. As a result, these organizations have many retired dogs available for rehoming and adoption.
If you want to be the next home for a retired guide dog, then you will need to search online for these service organizations in your location. Try searching for phrases such as ‘retired guide dog adoption Washington’ or wherever you are located.
If you find an organization in your area, head to the adoption page on the website. For instance, Guide Dogs For The Blind have career change dogs available for adoption, and Seeing Eye also has dogs available for adoption.
There will likely be a lot of requirements to meet before you are eligible to adopt. It is also important to note that most agencies have more applicants than dogs available, so you may be waiting a long time to receive a retired guide dog.
Some of the requirements could involve being over the age of 18 or 21, having ample indoor living space, a fenced in yard, being able to support the dog’s health and medical requirements, and not leaving home for more than 4 hours.
If you meet the requirements, you can then submit your application online. The adoption organization will then have to check your application, and ensure that you meet the requirements. Many organizations have a long waiting list, so you may not be accepted right away.
It’s a good idea to visit the organization, help out, volunteer and make yourself more available and visible to the organization, as this can help you stand out as a candidate. If you are selected, you will then need to be interviewed, and your home may also be checked to see if it is suitable.
You may also have to demonstrate that you are able to financially support and physically care for an older dog, as some may have medical issues, allergies and other needs that could be expensive.
If you pass all of these, then you will be able to meet the dog to see if you are both a good fit. Then, all you need to do is sign the adoption agreement, and pay the fee. You can then take your retired guide dog companion home to live out the rest of its life in peace.
What Happens To A Guide Dog When It Retires?
A guide dog will typically work for its owner for around 6-8 years, ensuring that they are safe, and assisting the handler in all aspects of day to day lives. However, no matter how wonderful and great the partnership is, as the dog gets older, there comes a time when it needs to retire.
As dogs age, they deserve to rest, relax, and no longer work every day and focus on keeping their handler safe. Just like humans have golden years to retire and enjoy their lives, guide dogs need this too.
Dogs also age quicker than us humans, and as they reach about 8-10 years of age, they are considered geriatric, and it may no longer be safe for them or the handler to be an assistance animal. Older dogs are not as agile as they once were, and will need to retire.
In these cases, the handler may keep the dog as a pet, may rehome them, or they may return them to the service animal organization from which they came, so that they can find a suitable, loving home.
Other options include returning the dog to the person who raised them as a puppy. With guide dog charities and organizations, in most cases, the puppy is raised by a family, before they go into guide dog and service animal training.
Then, once training is completed, they go to the handler’s home until they are no longer able to work.
When they reach retirement age, they are often offered to the people who once had a bond with them as a puppy.
What Age Do Guide Dogs Retire?
The age in which a guide dog retires depends on the dog itself. They may let their handler know that they are no longer able to work as they once did, or they may suffer from arthritis, hip dysplasia, and other age related illnesses that could make them less agile and able to work.
When the dog ages, and begins to slow down, or struggle to work without mistakes, these are all signs that the dog is ready to retire. It is a very difficult time, as the handler and the dog will have built up a very strong emotional bond and relationship.
But, the dog’s welfare comes first, and they will need to retire.
On average, a guide dog will work for around 8 years, so they will typically retire when they reach about 9 to 11 years of age. Most of the time, this is due to health issues and old age, as they are now prone to eye conditions, joint problems, and more.
To summarize, guide dogs will typically retire after around 8 years of service. They can either be kept by the handler, or returned to the organization to be rehomed and adopted. If you want to adopt a retired guide dog, then it is a long process, with a long waiting list, but it is incredibly rewarding.