Handling Tips

How to care for your Guide or Assistance Dog

Looking after your dog is a serious responsibility, but it needn’t be a burden. We help you with regular support, and provide important tips on care and development including:

  • regular feeding;

  • companionship;

  • comfort and care, e.g. grooming; and

  • play and relaxation.

Grooming your dog

It’s very important to groom your dog regularly with the correct grooming equipment. Make sure you pay attention to the areas that can be neglected – the tummy, between the hind legs and behind the ears.

While grooming, look in your dog’s mouth and ears and check the skin for any lumps or bumps. Consult your vet if you find anything unusual. As your dog gets older, they will be more prone to some skin ailments.

If your dog has been out in cold wet weather, make sure you give them a good rub down with a towel and a warm place to dry off.

Feeding your dog

Our staff will advise you of your dog’s individual requirements and we’ll tell you your dog’s ideal weight. Make sure your dog has its own food bowl and keep it separate from your family’s utensils and crockery.

As far as possible, your dog should be fed at the same time every day and in the same place, without interruption.

Your dog will be used to sitting and staying for his food. Give the commands “Sit” and then “Leave it” and place the food on the floor. When the dog is sitting waiting for the food, give three short blasts on your whistle and allow him to “Eat up”.

Fresh water should be available at all times. Do not be tempted to give your dog milk, as this will only affect its weight and ultimately its health.

Treats and titbits for your dog

Your dog should never be fed titbits from your plates, as this will encourage scavenging and stealing. If your dog gets into these habits they are hard to break.

If you decide to give your dog the occasional treat to reward good behaviour, buy specific treats for dogs or use a portion of it daily ration. Your dog’s main meal must be reduced by the amount fed at other times.

The feeding of treats and titbits can quickly lead to obesity, which greatly reduces your dog’s life expectancy as it puts strain on the heart, lungs and other major organs, as well as the joints. In addition, should the dog require surgery and anaesthetic the risk of complications are increased.

Recommended toys for your dog

All dogs like to play on their own sometimes, so it is important to leave at least one ‘safe’ toy down with them to play with at any time.


An excellent toy for this purpose is a Kong (available from pet shops) which is a firm rubber toy that is hollow in the inside and can withstand lots of chewing.

If you stuff some biscuits inside the Kong or smear some cheese spread inside, your dog will then work to get the food out and it will nibble, lick and chew on the toy for some time.

Kongs are also good at stimulating play and chase behaviour, since they bounce unpredictably in different directions when thrown.

Activity ball

This is a hollow, dimpled ball the size of a small football, with one or two holes bored into it. If you place small pieces of dry food inside (for example a portion of your dog’s daily ration) it will have to roll the ball around to get the food to drop out of the holes. This will keep your dog occupied for a long time.


This is a rope-like toy that a dog can play with. As with all toys, if you notice your dog exhibiting protective or aggressive behaviour,  discontinue until you speak to your supervisor  or instructor.

Rawhide chews

These are chews that dogs can eat safely and entirely. They come in various shapes and sizes and are available at pet stores and some supermarkets. These should only be given as a treat or when a dog is left alone for a few hours.

They should be limited to 2-3 times a week as given more often they will cause your dog to put on weight.

Your dog’s healthcare


All dogs need regular vaccination against the four major diseases: distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis and leptospirosis. These are serious diseases and annual booster vaccinations are required.

Kennel Cough vaccinations are required in special circumstances, particularly if your dog is going into boarding kennels.


Roundworms and tapeworms are the most common types of worms found in dogs. Roundworms can be transmitted to humans, so it is important to give your dog routine treatment every three to six months. Use a good quality treatment, available from your vet, and always use the correct dose.

It is important to treat your dog against tapeworm at the same time. Worming is especially important if you have children in your home.


Even clean dogs can pick up fleas and they can be very difficult to get rid of once your dog has them. Regular treatment is advisable, and there are many preventative treatments available from your vet.


Overfeeding a dog is as cruel as underfeeding a dog. Fat dogs have shorter lives, a reduced ability to withstand surgery or fight disease.  Obesity causes conditions ranging from skin disease, diabetes, arthritis, back and heart problems. You should have your dog’s weight checked at your dog’s 6 monthly health check-up.

You can tell if your dog is overweight with a few simple tests:

  • Stand above your dog and check its waist – pets at the proper weight will have a visible indention behind their ribs.

  • Place both hands, palms down, lightly on your dog’s ribs, but they shouldn’t be sticking out. If you can’t feel the ribs, your pet is probably over weight.

  • Look for the pouches of fat in the groin area between the hind legs.

Veterinary care for your dog

It’s a good idea to pop into your local vet as soon as possible after your dog is settled at home rather than waiting until your dog is ill.

Generally, our retired or withdrawn dogs will have been neutered – the males at nine months of age and the bitches at between 12 and 14 months of age. Where this is not the case, we ask that you get them neutered at your vet as soon as possible after re-homing.

Pet insurance for your dog

There are a number of different companies in the pet insurance market. One in every three dogs is likely to need major veterinary attention each year in addition to 6 monthly check-ups and vaccinations.

Typically, a policy will pay for the costs of veterinary treatment for illness or accident as well as third party liability and accidental damage caused by the animal. We recommend that you take out some pet insurance to cover the unexpected vet visit.

Micro-chipping your dog

All dogs rehomed by the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind have been micro-chipped. A micro-chip is a computer chip, about the size of a grain of rice, injected under the skin, between the dog’s shoulder blades.

If your dog gets lost, a dog warden can check with a scanner, find your dog’s unique record number and bring them back to you.

We will ensure the micro-chip company is updated to have your details placed on it. It is important to remember that although your dog is micro-chipped, it is still a legal requirement for your dog to have a collar and name tag in case it gets lost.

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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