Our History

Changing lives one dog at a time

We started from humble beginnings in a small farmhouse in Co. Cork in 1976, where the charity was founded by Mary Dunlop and Jim Dennehy who had lost his sight 8 years earlier.  

Since starting our journey, we have consistently focused on innovation to advance our knowledge and understanding of dog training. We have invested in state-of-the-art training facilities and developed programmes that deliver the best dog, at the right time, with the most suitable temperament to match our clients’ needs. 

All our programmes are offered free of charge, with intensive support and aftercare available to all our clients. 


  • 1976: Organisation founded by Mary Dunlop and Jim Dennehy 

  • 1980: Opened our Model Farm Road, Cork site and trained our first Guide Dog partnership 

  • 1988: Introduction of the Orientation & Mobility Programme (Long Cane Training) 

  • 1999: Introduction of the Child Mobility Programme 

  • 2004: Launch of the Independent Living Skills Programme and training facility 

  • 2005: Introduction of our Assistance Dog Programme for families of children with autism – the first organisation in Europe to do so.  

  • 2010: Taoiseach Enda Kenny officially opens €5m redevelopment of National Headquarters and Training Centre. 

  • 2016: President Michael D. Higgins visits the National Headquarters and Training Centre to celebrate our 40th Anniversary and to recognise the organisation's significant contribution to its voluntary community. 

  • 2018: The Duchess of Cornwall visits the Training Centre, meeting a number of Clients and watching a demonstration of our dogs being trained.

  • 2019: Opened our office in Dublin City Centre to support Clients in the East Region.

One constant throughout the years has been the generosity of our supporters and the public who believe in the value of our work and see the impact in their community. 

Luke & Kain

Luke is still non-verbal but when I see him smiling down at Kain it shows me he doesn’t need words to express how happy he is.

Kim & Jango

Meeting Jango was one of the best moments of my life. He’s a beautiful big cuddly dog with the personality to match. From the moment I met him I knew we were going to be best buddies.

Shauna & Esme

When I needed a hand, I found a paw.

Conor & Quelda

When Conor is with Quelda he smiles and is comfortable being out and about which is such an amazing gift – we never leave home without her. She has changed all of our lives.

Aran & Buttons

Being a Guide Dog Owner is such a privilege and positive experience. Buttons has enhanced my life in so many ways and I will always be grateful for that.

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