Assistance Dog Programme FAQs

Q. Can I get more information about the Assistance Dog Programme / application process?

A. Of course. If you have any questions or would like more information about any aspect of our Assistance Dog Programme or application process, you can contact a member of the Client Services Team on 087 906 0642 or 0879652362 or via e-mail at clientservicesteam@guidedogs.ie.

We have also arranged virtual information sessions this year for applicants to ensure that they have all the information they need about the service and application process.

These sessions will take place via Zoom on:

  • Monday, 15th November at 7:00pm

  • Tuesday, 16th November at 7:00pm

  • Wednesday, 17th November at 10:30am

Please email clientservicesteam@guidedogs.ie to register your attendance at one of the sessions.

Q. What are the benefits of having an Assistance Dog?

A. The primary function of our Assistance Dogs is to “anchor” a child to stop them from bolting in public. This can improve the behaviour of a child by promoting calmness and acting as a safety aid to the parents. With the help of our dogs, family outings can become less stressful as our dogs allow families to enjoy greater freedom and mobility. We have also found other benefits which may include:

  • deep pressure therapy in times of anxiety;

  • improved participation in social activities;

  • improved communication skills; and

  • a greater sense of responsibility and improved confidence.

Q. When is the application process open?

A. The application process opens on Thursday 18th November 2021.

Q. What is the cost to apply for an Assistance Dog?

A. It is free to apply for Assistance Dog from Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind. However, if your application is successful, we do charge a nominal cost of €10.00 for accommodation and food for the 5 days you will stay at our Centre to be trained. In addition, when matched, you are required to pay us €1.00 in order to lease the dog from us.

Q. What is the cost of having an Assistance Dog?

A. The estimated minimum yearly cost of having an Assistance Dog in your family is €1,652.00 per annum. This includes twice yearly visits to the vet (which the dog has to have in order to comply with Assistance Dogs International's (ADI) accreditation standards), the cost of vaccinations, worming and flea treatments, the cost of insurance for the dog, the cost of food, bedding, toys, etc.

Q. How long will I have to apply?

A. The application form will be available for 12 hours, from 9.00am to 9.00pm Irish time on Thursday 18th November 2021.

Q. Where can I find the application form?

A. The application form will be “live” on the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind website www.guidedogs.ie for 12 hours, from 9.00am to 9.00pm Irish time on Thursday 18th November 2021.

Q. What if I am having difficulty accessing or submitting my application?

A. If you are having any difficulty, please contact a member of the Client Services team via telephone at 087 906 0642 or via email at clientservicesteam@guidedogs.ie. They will be happy to help.

Q. How many applicants will be selected for the waiting list?

A. 70 applicants will be selected and placed on the waiting list.

Q. Why only 70 applicants?

A. We have chosen 70 applicants to place on the waiting list this year to ensure we can provide a service to all on the waiting list within an eighteen-month timeframe. It is our intention to open the list again for 2023.

Q. What are the application criteria?

A. The application criteria this year are:

(i) Child must be aged between 4–7 years of age at time of application.

(ii) Full multi-disciplinary report showing diagnosis of autism must be included with the application.

(iii) Multi-disciplinary report recommends your child attends an ASD Unit or specialised school OR be recommended to attend by the multi-disciplinary report.

(iv) Commitment that one parent/guardian will be at home for the majority of time thereby not leaving the Assistance Dog on its own for more than 4 hours twice a week i.e. both parents/guardians cannot work full-time.

Q. Why are applications restricted to children between 4-7 years?

A. Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind has trained Assistance Dogs for children with autism since 2005. It is the primary function of our Assistance Dogs to “anchor” a child to stop them from bolting. It is our experience that our dogs can find it difficult to do this if the child is too big or strong for the dog. On the other hand, we have found that children under the age of 4 years are unsuitable for an Assistance Dog as they may not be walking, they may not be displaying typical ASD behaviours by this point, they may still be using buggies/strollers and/or have a walking speed that is too slow for an Assistance Dog to manage.

Q. What is a multi-disciplinary report and why is it required by Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind?

A. A multi-disciplinary report is a report that outlines all relevant information from the team of clinicians that assessed your child at time of diagnosis. These clinicians may include speech and language, occupational therapy, psychology and social work. The report will have a confirmation diagnosis of autism and will give Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind more information as to other inputs and services which your child may be receiving.

Q. Why are only applications from children whose multi-disciplinary report recommends he/she attends an ASD Unit or specialised school accepted?

A. From experience, our Assistance Dogs bring the most value to those children whose multi-disciplinary report recommends they attend an ASD Unit or specialised school.

Q. What about home schools?

A. An application for a child who is being home schooled will be accepted assuming that the multi-disciplinary report recommends that the child attends an ASD unit or school i.e. home schooling in this case will be considered to be in a special environment as they would not be able for a mainstream classroom setting.

Q. What is the process you plan to use to select which applicants are put onto the waiting list?

A. The following selection process will be followed:

(i) Initially, all applications will be checked to ensure that they fulfil the “application criteria”. (See above for list of application criteria). Those that do not, will be removed and declined immediately.

(ii) Applications will be grouped by age and we will seek to apply the following targets:

  • 7 years of age - 40% / 28 applicants

  • 6 years of age - 30% / 21 applicants

  • 5 years of age - 20% / 14 applicants

  • 4 years of age - 10% / 7 applicants

We are accepting onto the waiting list this year more applications from older children (children aged 6 & 7 years of age) in order to minimise the risk that a child will not be successful and miss the age cut off for our service. In addition, over the last number of years we have found that it is easier for Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind to find stronger matches between dogs and children if we have a mix of ages and capabilities.

If there are not enough applicants to meet the target percentage, the remaining spaces will be added to the next age category up.

If the number of applicants is greater than the target for the age group (outlined above), all applicants for that age group will be placed into a draw and “lots” will be drawn by an independent reputable person not employed by Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind or a member of the Board or sub-committees.

(iii) Draw for age groups with more applications than the target will be completed (if necessary).

(iv) Successful and unsuccessful applicants will be informed of the outcome of their application.

Q. In the past applicants were chosen for the waiting list on a first come, first served basis. Why have you changed this?

A. Following feedback from applicants two years ago (both those who were successful and those who were unsuccessful), we believe that our updated selection process will be fairer to all applicants and result in a better applicant experience as it will ensure that those who wish to apply have an equal opportunity of being selected to be placed on the waiting list.

Q. If I am successful in being put on the waiting list, how long will I wait for a dog?

A. It is our intention that applications that are taken in this year will be serviced in an 18-month period. However, as always, the suitability of the matching process is crucial to the success of the partnership, so it is vitally important to ensure the correct match is made.

Q. If I am successful with my application and put on the waiting list, what happens next?

A. If you are successful with your application and placed on the waiting list, you will begin to move through the phases of the Assistance Dog Applicant process. This process may consist of the following phases:

(i) Online Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind Assistance Dog Application Course: You will be given access to our online learning platform and asked to complete our Assistance Dog Application Course. This e-learning platform is designed to assist you as you proceed through the application phase. This, along with the support of the Client Supervisor and the Assistance Dog Instructors, will ensure you are thoroughly informed of the application process, as well as the benefits and challenges of Assistance Dog ownership.

(ii) Home Check: Home checks will be completed by members of the Client Services team and Assistance Dog Instructors. They may be completed virtually or physically. We simply want to see what kind of environment a dog may be living in and what pets they will be sharing their space with. We will ask to see the main rooms where the family and child socialise and rest. We will also need to see the garden or yard, especially the perimeter fence and gate to make sure it is safe and secure. We will also need to see where you expect the dog to sleep in the house (we do not expect you to buy a dog bed at this time).

(iii) Interview with parents: This assessment is either done via a video chat in your own home with one of our Assistance Dog Instructors, or in person at the Irish Guide Dog for The Blind Training Centre in Cork. The goal of the assessment is not to test you or your child. It is a conversation designed to determine if an Assistance Dog is the right fit for you and your family, and what personality and type of dog you will require. We are interested in your child's likes and dislikes, how they learn and how best they thrive. We are also interested in all the people and pets in your household, as well as the environment and the types of places you visit now and would like to visit in the future. It is important that we take this opportunity to get as much information as we can in order for you to help us get the right fit between your family and the right dog. It is important that both parents are available for this chat and are able to put aside two hours for this conversation. We will need both parents' full attention.

(iv) Physical Attachment Practice: Your whole family (i.e., those that live in your home with your child) will be invited to our headquarters in Cork. This part of the assessment generally takes approximately three hours and must be attended by your whole family. The goal of the second part of the assessment, in collaboration with you and your family, will enable us to determine whether an Assistance Dog is the right mobility aid for your child. It will also give us an opportunity to see how you all interact with dogs and what kind of dog may be most suitable for your child and whole family. Some of the assessment will take place in our safe autism friendly room where the children are invited to relax or play with a dog depending on how they feel. The other part of the assessment will be an attachment walk. This is where the child is attached to one of our dogs and encouraged to hold the specially designed handle.

(v) Awaiting Match: If you and your family have completed the interview, the physical Attachment Practice assessment and home check and have been approved, we will next focus on finding and training the right dog for your child! Once accepted for training, your family will be placed on the Awaiting Match List, pending a suitably trained Assistance Dog becoming available that will also match the needs of your family. You and your whole family will then be called for a Matching Visit at our headquarters in Cork. The Matching Visit is exactly like the second Assistance Dog Assessment you completed, but this time we will attach your child to the dog we have in mind for you! We ask that you do not tell your children that they are coming to meet their new dog, just in case we decide on the day that this isn't the right dog for you. Should this visit be a success, you will be invited to formal Assistance Dog Training - what we call "Class". If the visit is not a success, we will continue to seek the right dog for you. We try our best to give you at least one months’ notice before "Class" although this may not always be possible. “Class” can be a period of up to 6 days where one parent stays at our National Training Centre and is taught how to handle and work with a dog safely.

Q. Can my application be declined after I am put on the waiting list?

A. Although your application may be declined at any time during the Assistance Dog Applicant process, please be assured that the purpose of this process is to ensure that an Assistance Dog is the right support for your child, that your family and home are suitable to have an Assistance Dog and to determine what dog specifically will best match with your child and family. Your application will only be declined at this stage if you or we believe an Assistance Dog is not a suitable support for your child and family. Note: that the decision to decline your application can be appealed by you if you wish.

Q. If I'm unsuccessful with my application list, will my application be kept on file until you can give me a dog?

A. No. We aim to open our waiting list again for 2023. If you are unsuccessful this year, and still wish to receive an Assistance Dog from us, you will need to reapply for the 2023 programme.

Q. If I'm unsuccessful with my application list, will the list open again?

A. We would expect to open the list again for 2023. This is dependant not only on the number of pups successfully trained but also the availability of Puppy Raisers who are so crucial to the Training Programme and the number of successful matches made through this new round of applications.

Q. If I am successful, and given an Assistance Dog, do I own the dog?

A. No. When you are given an Assistance Dog, Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind remain the owner of the dog and you sign a lease agreement with us. This is for us to have the ability to ensure the health, welfare and training of all of our dogs are maintained by Clients during their working lives. If all aspects of the dog's health, welfare and training are not maintained by you, we may remove the dog from you.

That said, at the end of the dog's working life when he/she retires, if there have been no issues with you maintaining the health or welfare of the dog, we will transfer ownership of the dog to you if you wish and he/she can continue to live with you and your family as a pet. Alternatively, if you do not want to retain the dog when he/she retires, we will arrange for him/her to be rehomed.

Q. Do I need insurance for my Assistance Dog?

A. Yes. As part of the lease agreement, you are required to obtain health insurance for your Assistance Dog and maintain this for the duration of his/her working life.

Q. How long does an Assistance Dog stay with a family?

A. Assistance Dogs generally retire at 10 years of age.

Q. I would like to speak to somebody to get more information about Assistance Dogs, the application process, etc. Is this possible?

A. Of course. Please contact a member of the Client Services team via telephone at (021) 487 8200 or via email at clientservicesteam@guidedogs.ie. They can give you any additional information you need and answer any question you may have.

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.

Subscribe to our Paw Prints newsletter for the latest updates

Subscribe me