Guide Dog FAQs

23 Jun, 2021

Guide Dog FAQs

Our 3-week residential Guide Dog Training Programme involves attending our Training Centre where our team of expert instructors will train you and your new partner.

How does a Guide Dog know how to work?

Every Guide Dog goes through months of careful training at our Training Centre in Cork.  A Guide Dog does not know you are visually impaired but knows you are its handler or trainer.

From training in Cork, you will learn how to care for and safely work a Guide Dog which must be maintained over the dog’s working life. This includes working your Guide Dog regularly and reinforcing obedience and good behaviours.

How would a Guide Dog benefit my life?

A Guide Dog enhances your mobility, increases your independence, aids in social interaction and has been found to be beneficial to an owner’s confidence, motivation, self-esteem, and overall life satisfaction. The Guide Dog becomes a companion and a close friend. 

What are the benefits of using a Guide Dog instead of a long cane?

Choosing between the two is a very personal choice. Both a long cane and a Guide Dog are great mobility tools and can provide freedom and independence. In some instances, people use both. There are pros and cons to both and the decision of which to use may be influenced by your destination and needs.

What are the mobility benefits of using the long cane?

You can fold up your long cane when you arrive home and not think about it again until you next need to go out. The long cane will give you detailed information about your environment. However, the long cane does not always detect all obstacles at a higher level, for example, bicycle rails, underneath a staircase or vehicles with high base, as the cane is able to go in under these obstacles.  A cane cannot detect overhanging branches. Cane travel can be more cumbersome and not as fluid as a Guide Dog.

What are the mobility benefits of using a Guide Dog?

A Guide Dog is a smoother and faster form of travel. You are never walking alone and as a result a Guide Dog can make you feel more secure. A Guide Dog attracts positive attention and increases social interactions. Anecdotal evidence would suggest that a Guide Dog owner has an increased longevity in relation to their mobility and fitness.

Do I have to plan my days out with a Guide Dog?

You need to plan for the care of your Guide Dog. In the beginning, a Guide Dog will not be used to your lifestyle but in time he/she becomes accustomed to your daily routine. All Guide Dogs actually love routine. Careful planning is needed as you may work, go to college or even plan on going on holidays with your Guide Dog. You must carefully think about the needs of your Guide Dog e.g. where can I let the dog go to the toilet? Will the Guide Dog be okay in a busy environment? 

I am not fully blind, but I have some remaining vision.  Can I still get a Guide Dog?

You do not need to be fully blind to apply for a Guide Dog, however, to ensure you will benefit from having a Guide Dog, we need to determine whether your vision impairment has a significant impact on your mobility.  This could have a positive or negative effect with a working Guide Dog and is assessed individually. 

Is there an age requirement for getting a Guide Dog?

Currently you must be at least 16 years old to get a guide dog but there is no upper age limit.

What level of mobility and orientation do I need to get a Guide Dog?

You must have independent, functional, orientation and mobility on the routes and to the destinations that you will use.

As your level of vision requires a mobility aid, you must be proficient and safe in the use of this aid, usually a long cane, and be able to demonstrate independent travel. You must have sufficient routes; in other words, you must have sufficient work for a Guide Dog.

However, if you do not have this level of orientation and mobility but are motivated to achieve independence you can still apply for a Guide Dog, and we will work with you on your mobility and orientation to facilitate your progress to the Guide Dog assessment. 

Do I need to be able to use a long cane before I apply for a Guide Dog?

If you do not have sufficient long cane skills, you can still apply for a Guide Dog and we will work with you on your skills to facilitate your progress to the Guide Dog assessment.

I do not want to learn how to use a cane. Does this mean I cannot get a Guide Dog?

You will not be able to fulfil the requirements of the application process without having independent functional mobility and orientation on your routes and to the destinations you intend to travel. You will need to demonstrate this through use of a primary mobility aid to ensure safe, independent travel.

How do I apply for a Guide Dog?

You can apply yourself through our online application form here on our website. You can also be referred by a health care professional such as an ophthalmologist, optometrist, GP, a family member, or any organisation working with you in relation to your vision. Alternatively, you can contact us by phone (021-487 8200) and a member of staff will assist you with your application.

I find it hard to use a computer, can I get someone else to help me apply?

Yes, you can contact us by phone (021 487 8200) and a member of staff will assist you with your application or someone on your behalf, can complete the application below.

What are the application criteria for getting a Guide Dog?

All applicants must have a sufficient level of vision impairment that requires the use of a primary mobility aid to ensure safe, independent travel, such as the long cane. You must have useful orientation skills and familiarity with your routes before training with a Guide Dog.

What happens if I don’t meet the Mobility requirements for a Guide Dog?

If an applicant does not meet the requirements for a Guide Dog due to orientation and mobility issues, they can still apply, and we will be happy to work with them on developing these skills through our Orientation and Mobility Programmes. Find out more here.

What if I have other health problems or disabilities?

It may still be possible to train with a Guide Dog. Each applicant will be  assessed on an individual basis with regard to suitability for training

Are there other requirements that I need to consider before applying for a Guide Dog?

All our new Guide Dogs qualify around 18 to 24 months of age and work until they are about 10 years old. It is a long-term commitment and has immense positive benefits in your life. Having said this, you must consider the following:

  • You must have the motivation to train and work with a Guide Dog on a long-term basis.

  • Have the ability to achieve and maintain an effective relationship in a person / Guide Dog team, which includes the ability to meet the dog’s physical, behavioural and emotional needs.

  • Have the physical ability to manage a Guide Dog.

  • Have sufficient work for the Guide Dog to maintain safe guiding skills. 

  • Have a level of vision loss that requires use of a primary mobility aid to ensure safe, independent travel.

  • Be able to demonstrate independent and safe road crossings (including the use of appropriate assistance).

  • Have a safe and supportive home and working environment.

  • Have access to a safe free running area required to maintain the Guide Dog’s ongoing physical, behavioural, and emotional well-being.

What is the application process for a Guide Dog?

The application process can be broken down into phases.

Phase 1

Initial contact can be made, online or by phone, with the organisation by you or someone acting on your behalf. You will be informed of the procedure at this point and provided with information. Initially you will be requested to provide a Consent Form to enable us to request the relevant documentation such as an eye report and medical report. Also, you will need to fill out a full application form. This will be supplied to you by a member of our Client Services team.

Phase 2

You will be advised of acceptance / non-acceptance within one month of receipt of all required information. 

Phase 3

If you are accepted, you will undergo a Mobility Assessment by our orientation and mobility instructor. 

Phase 4

On successful completion of the mobility assessment, you will then undergo a Guide Dog Assessment and possible preliminary training if required.

Phase 5

If your Guide Dog Mobility Assessment is successful you will then progress to the Guide Dog waiting list. When a suitable Guide Dog is available you will undergo a Guide Dog match.

Phase 6

Following your Guide Dog match, you will then undergo Guide Dog training for at least 3 weeks. There will be other clients training also so you will not be alone. This is usually residential training in our Training Centre in Cork with a dedicated Guide Dog Mobility Instructor who will have trained your Guide Dog and knows the dog very well. The Training Centre is run by friendly and professional housekeeping staff.

What happens if I am unsuccessful at a particular phase?

At any point during the process if you do not succeed in the various phases, you will be notified and given the reason for the same. If further training would facilitate success at any stage, we would endeavour to provide this training where possible or refer to an external organisation where appropriate. 

You are entitled to appeal decisions through our appeals procedure.

How long will it take to get a Guide Dog if I apply today?

Once accepted onto the waiting list you could be waiting 6 to 12 months for a Guide Dog. The waiting time will depend on many factors including:

  • whether preliminary training is required such as orientation skills;

  • the dog matching criteria;

  • your individual needs;

  • your personal circumstances such as college, school etc.; and

  • the extent of the current waiting list. 


I have heard I need to be able to navigate at least 3 routes before I apply for a Guide Dog. Is this true? Why?

To maintain a Guide Dog’s skills, you will be expected to work the dog for a minimum of approximately five days per week, for at least 30 minutes or a two-mile walk. Ideally, you will work the Guide Dog at least five days a week, using a combination of at least three different routes. 

After I qualify with my Guide Dog, do I have any additional support?

When you return home with your new Guide Dog, follow up training is given on your required routes. This includes several visits in the initial two-week period after qualifying. Following this you will be seen at six weeks, six months and once a year thereafter. Some Guide Dog partnerships may need extra support, and this is catered for. Our services provide aftercare to support you and your Guide Dog throughout its working life. 

How much does it cost to maintain a Guide Dog?

 To maintain your Guide Dog will cost approximately €1,200 a year. This will cover dog food, twice yearly vet visits, pet insurance etc. The fee for your stay in our Centre while training, including bed and board is just €10 per week.

Can I get a social welfare payment to support a Guide Dog?

If you are working you can get a Guide Dog Allowance. This allowance is given as a tax credit. You must get a letter confirming that you are a registered owner of a Guide Dog to claim this relief. You can get the Guide Dog Allowance in addition to the Blind Tax Credit if working but currently there is no specific social welfare payment to support a Guide Dog.

I am worried I can’t afford to have a Guide Dog.  What can I do?

You can avail of the tax credit if paying tax. We provide a Guide Dog feeding allowance for people who need it. This will be assessed on an individual basis.

Can a Guide Dog go everywhere I need to go?

Yes, the Guide Dog can go everywhere with you for more information on access rights please click here.

I already have a pet, will this prevent me from getting a Guide Dog

No, Guide Dogs are socialised in various environments, and many are used to other pets but it will be taken into account when matching you with your Guide Dog.

How can I get more information about a Guide Dog and how to apply?

Contact us and our Guide Dog Client Services team will be more than happy to talk you through the process and provide you with more information.

Got a Question? Contact Us

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