The Service Dog is trained to meet the needs of their owner. Each Service Dog owner would have a different lifestyle and would require the Service Dog to assist with their specific needs.

In the final stages of the dog’s training the instructor would practice tasks that are very similar to the tasks that the dog will perform when it is working with it’s owner.

If you use a wheelchair it can be impossible to reach items that have been dropped on the floor or items that are placed on a high table. Service Dogs can accomplish these tasks with ease.

Door handles need to be adapted to make it possible for the dog to assist with pulling down the lever. The instructor will advise on all of the specific adaptions that will be required.

Service Dogs assist people who are physically disabled.  They are taught the main tasks of retrieve, push and pull. These tasks are initially taught in their most basic form but as the dog progresses the tasks become more complex.

A Service Dog is Able to:

  • Retrieve a variety of items from a variety of locations.
  • Assist with the opening and closing of doors, draws, cupboards etc.
  • Assist with the switching on of light switches.
  • Locate a family member on the property and indicate that their owner needs assistance.
  • Take items to/fetch items from another person on the property.
  • Bark on command.
  • Walk next to the wheelchair in a controlled manner.
South African Guide-Dogs Association For The Blind Guide Dog Owner With Guide Dog In Harness

Apply for a Working Dog

Service Dog applicants should be 13 years or older.

All potential working dog owners will be interviewed in their home. The interview will give the applicant the opportunity to ask any question that they may have about:

  • The role of the working dog.
  • The advantages and disadvantages of owning a working dog.
  • The responsibilities of dog ownership.
  • The training process of the dog and owner.

A working dog may not be recommended for each applicant. If you do not enjoy being near dogs then a working dog will not be the solution for you.

For information regarding working dog applications please email or complete the enquiry form below.


The Cost of a Working Dog

Applicants who are accepted for training will be expected to pay R205 for their trained working dog. This nominal payment means that a working dog is within reach of any person who is able to afford to care for a dog on a monthly basis.

Working dog owners agree to care for the dog in a humane manner and to follow South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind’s guidelines with regards to the ongoing training of the dog.


Working Dog Partnerships

Each working dog owner will undergo training so that they are able to care for their dog and work the dog in a safe and efficient manner.

Working dog owners are taught how to understand their dog’s needs and how to continue the training of the dog utilising the principles of positive reinforcement.

Most working dogs owners undergo training at one of South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind’s Training Centres, in Johannesburg or Cape Town and in their home environment.

How South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind Assists Working Dog Owners

All working partnerships are eligible to receive ongoing support and advice for the working life of the dog. Instructors are available to give telephonic advice and follow up visits as needed. All partnerships are visited on an annual basis.

The owner is responsible for the upkeep of the dog but South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind can be approached for assistance if the dog requires any extended or expensive veterinary treatment.


Matching the Owner and the Working Dog

The success of the partnership is dependent on the owner and dog being compatible. Compatibility will depend on many different factors. A working dog that suits a young active student at university will probably not be a suitable match for a retired person.

The instructor will consider everything that they know about the temperament and working ability of the dog.

The next step will be to compare this to the needs, lifestyle, preferences and environment of the prospective owner.


What Happens When the Working Dog Retires?

Most working dogs will retire at about 10 years of age. Generally, the owner will keep the dog as a pet as they have such a strong bond with the dog. If the owner can’t keep the working dog then they are allowed to re-home the dog with a trusted friend or family member. If the owner does not know someone suitable then South African Guide-Dogs Association for the Blind will re-home the dog to an approved home.

Retired working dogs are used to a lot of companionship and are usually re-homed with someone who does not work or who works from home.

A retired dog will cost more to maintain as they may have additional health conditions due to age.