Here’s What Happens to Retired Guide Dogs

Posted by Stacey Venzel
Smerikal/Flickr CC

Assistance dogs find forever homes when they get too old for the job.

Guide dogs come in a few different breeds, but Labrador Retrievers are the most popular. Seeing eye dogs and other therapy canines are bred for their work in aiding handicapped humans. The pups go through a detailed training program that lasts over two years. Once they pass the final test, they are matched up with the human they will assist for the next six to eight years.

At around 8 to 10 years old, canines enter the geriatric life stage and start to lose some agility. They are retired at this age, but they do not go to the pound. Instead they are adopted in one of three scenarios.

Smerikal/Flickr CC
Smerikal/Flickr CC

The first priority goes to the handicapped parent. After spending half a decade together, the bond between a human and guide dog is unbreakable. However, sometimes a tough decision needs to be made. Another guide dog will be coming into the picture, and keeping the retired canine would mean two dogs to take care of. When this is not an option, the dog goes to the second priority.

Friends and family of the handicapped individual can adopt the pet. This situation is ideal for instances in which the assisted owner does not want to lose the canine companion but does not have the ability to care for it.

If the animal is re-homed with friends or family, visiting hours are unlimited. Some dogs even return to their original foster family during from their training years. When no known person is able to take on a four-legged family member, there is one last option for adoption.

First American/Flickr CC
First American/Flickr CC

Finally, retired dogs can be adopted by an unknown family. Unlike many abandoned shelter dogs, these canines do not wait for months in a kennel to find their forever home. Because of how well-behaved assistance dogs are, there is a four- to six-year waiting list to adopt a retired guide dog. Candidates must adhere to strict criteria in order to be eligible pet owners. For example, the dogs are not allowed to be at home alone for more than four hours at a time.

Even dogs who do not complete their initial training program quickly find alternative lifelong families, giving them a second chance.

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Here’s What Happens to Retired Guide Dogs