Image of Deanna Lewis and her guide dog Mambo at the American Sign Museum

September 14, 2021

Did you know that guide dogs actually retire after they have served their owners?

Resident guide dog expert and Clovernook Center employee Deanna Lewis and her guide dog Mambo, chime in to answer the question: “What happens when a guide dog retires?”

A Guide Dog’s Career

A guide dog typically works for 6-8 years, providing trust and safety to their blind handler. But, all great careers and partnerships must one day come to an end. Guide dogs deserve some rest and relaxation during their golden years, just like we do as humans.

Guide dogs are bred to work and they genuinely enjoy their job. However, everyday stressors can add up, and sometimes a guide dog decides that it no longer wants to work. The dog might be getting older, slowing down or is making more mistakes than usual. The dog may be reluctant to come when its owner grabs the leash and harness or may seem stressed or uneasy in everyday places that never bothered the animal previously.

Sometimes health issues arise and the dog is forced to retire early. In some cases, a dog may have experienced a traumatic event (like a dog attack) and can no longer be confident in its guide work.

When a Guide Dog Retires

Once it’s time for a guide dog to retire, some handlers decide to keep their retired guide dog, allowing them to live the carefree life of a pet at home. However, other situations may prevent this transition. The handler may live in an apartment or small space, so keeping a retired dog is impractical, especially if they are planning to find a new partner. Guide dogs are usually large breeds, and two large dogs could be expensive and a lot of work. Sometimes the previous guide dog may not adjust well to being retired and having to watch the new guide dog do “their” job, which can cause stress for both animals.

In these cases, the handler may choose to give the dog to a friend or family member. Sometimes it may work best to allow the dog to return to the family that raised it as a puppy. Many guide dog schools have a long list of people who want to adopt a retired guide dog, so there are many loving options for a guide dog after their time of service is complete, putting them in the hands of individuals that will love them well into their golden years.

Thank you for tuning in during National Guide Dog Month! Did you miss any of our previous guide dog installments? Click below to read more:

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