UK guide dogs to drop age limit

I know I know, two posts in less than 24 hours, but I’d be really interested to hear what you think of the article below.
Maybe we can have a bit of a discussion in the comments section. I personally think its crazy, but I’ll stay quiet for the meantime.

Guide dog age limit to be dropped

Charlotte is helped around her school by guide dog, Paris

Guide dogs are going to be available for visually-impaired children in the UK for the first time – as the age limit is removed.

The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association is to begin training dogs to help blind or partially-sighted people under the current limit of 16.

The association says too many visually-impaired youngsters are lacking in independence and mobility.

“These young people end up isolated,” says chief executive, Bridget Warr.

The charity says many visually-impaired youngsters have only a limited social life and have to endure bullying because of their disability.


Giving some of them guide dogs at a younger age is intended to help them to widen their range of activities and to improve their sense of self-confidence
and independence.

Charlotte, helped by guide dog

Charlotte is one of the youngest people to have had a guide dog

Guide dogs for these younger teenagers will begin to be provided from next year.

“The picture that emerges from our research is shocking. Children are being conditioned to expect to underachieve for the rest of their lives when in fact
sight loss is no barrier to actively contributing to society when the right support is in place,” says Ms Warr.

There has been a pilot scheme to test the use of guide dogs with younger people.

Charlotte, aged 14, from Northampton, was among the youngest guide dog owners. She has been gradually losing her vision since the age of eight – and lost
her sight completely this year. She has been assisted by a two-year-old Labrador retriever, Paris.

Charlotte used to have a long cane to help her move around but says having a dog allows her much more freedom and makes her feel safer.

At her school, St Paul’s Catholic School in Milton Keynes, there is a dedicated unit helping the school’s 12 vision impaired youngsters.

However the association says there is a worryingly patchy provision of services for young blind people across the UK and it calls for national minimum standards
to be introduced.

As with adult blind and partially sighted people, only a small number of children are likely to be deemed suitable for a guide dog. Most will continue to
rely on extra help and training from education and social services.

There are about 4,600 guide dogs helping people – with a Labrador-retriever cross the most commonly-used breed.


16 thoughts on “UK guide dogs to drop age limit

  1. We would like to believe if any child is helped by having a guide dog age should not be a factor unless the child is unable to complete the training.Dogs are very capable of giving back – too bad the program doesn't reach out to shelters and rescues. XXOOOXxxoxoxoxooo

  2. Hello Charlotte is my friend and I introduced her to the pilot scheme for under 16s and Paris has given Charlotte the confidence she so much lacked but I have to say there are obviously factors which makes it not right and the responsibility is huge and Charlotte is very mature for age and as some of you may have seen on the TV news the confidence she has been given already is fantastic and I wish them all the best

  3. i agree a guide dog can give you so much confidence and independance. If they are capable of looking after the dog, and take on most of the responsibility, then i dont have a problem with it.I have really come out of my shell since i got Uma, i just wish i got her years ago. I feel alot safer with her. I hated going outside with a cane, i didnt feel safe. I often walked into things, had alot of accidents involing stairs or falling over objects, i occasionally walked into road as well without knowing.I lost alot of my confidence over the years and in the end couldnt bare to go outside alone with a cane, i was too scared too. I have only just started to re build my confidence, since getting Uma. I'm slowly going out more and more and i would love anyone to have the independance i have now.

  4. Interesting points everybody has made.I definitely agree a guide dog gives great independence and confidence, and the sooner you can have that the better. I just wonder how it all works – taking responsibility when your so young, having the dog in school all day. How do you get time to walk/exercise it and have your own social time as well. I really admire anyone who can do it.I would have absolutely loved a dog at that age but think I definitely would have to compromise some things, and don't know if that would have been a good thing either. Imagine, I'd probably be working my second dog already!I wonder how they work this, as the UK lists are so so long anyway. I'm sure the matching process is very intense, as it should be with every dog/handler match.I'd be very interested in talking to Charlotte just out of curiosity.

  5. yeah but its just like at work really isnt it you just have to find the time to exercise and play with the dog, i will be talking to Charlotte within a few weeks hopefully so will let you all know what she thinks, she really is a lovely girl and is very mature for her age and again as you all have said a guide dog gives confidence and self esteem and a cane cant do that, i felt so insecure and wouldnt go out using a cane but with Pearce i am not scared because you always have a friend beside you and yes we do wish we would have had that same chance that charlotte and the other youngsters have had but I introduced Charlotte to the scheme and glad I did I have helped someone else gain confidence and independance

  6. No no no and no again is my view! I don't think giving a child a Guide Dog is the answer to their lack of confidence. I don't have a dog yet, but the responsiblity looks immense. Spending, grooming, feeding and vet visits just to mention a few of the regular tasks. Then of course there is the issue of lack of working the dog. It's just goig to sit under the desk all day. Break and lunchtimes can't be fun with the amount of food on the ground for the dog to scavange and what people are now your friend because you have a dog? It's just not right.I think that having mobility lessons from a young age with a cane is very important and where alot of us are let down by the system. Not being wrapped up in cotton wool is also the key for a child to have confidence and independence. All you want to do is fit in at school and many disabled children in general are treated differently or are considered 'special'.I may be being bias here because I was rejected for a dog at 16 forall the reasons I mentioned in my opening paragraph. Even when I applied again at 19 Guide Dogs harped on about having good cane skills and lots of routes to keep the dog engaged. Now at 21 i'm still waiting for my dog and the freedom you all describe. Is it fair that i'm having to wait longer now because kids have been given priority? The pilot was done by my team so these people have skipped the list.To finish off you change so much in your teenage years and I don't feel it is fair on a young person to have to work their lives around their dog.A dog's not just for xmas people!

  7. Well said Selina. You make some great points.It would be a bit like looking after a child in a way, except having it at school as well. Not sure how you'd convince all the students not to throw it food, its sometimes hard enough getting members of the public to listen to you!A friend of mine did get his dog in final year of school, but he was 18, so technically an adult.I just wonder how it will affect the organisation in the longrun, will waiting times be even longer, will people under 16 be priority and will young people decide soon after being matched that it wasn't the right decision for them?I know this could happen with people of any age.

  8. Hello Jenny Pearce is doing fine thank you for asking after us, I have had Pearce now 11 months but next tuesday 13th oct i met pearce for the first time last year, its gone so quick but its going fantastically well. I knew this news article would bring about debate of some sort but i do have to say Charlotte is very mature for her age and she is a really lovely girl but there are consequences or whatever you may call it and I agree with Selina when she says she has had to wait longer because these children came first and it is true a dog isnt right for everyone and a dog is definately not just for christmas but of life and has to be realised but I think guide dogs know what they are doing and they only select a few who they think will be successful with a guide dog. There will always be jealousy in situations like this because you wish you could have had that chance and if you were in that situation you wouldnt say no and i just think I have given a friend of mine independance that i never had and if they can show that they are capable of looking after a dog then i have no problems. being at school is like being at work for a dog its no different work is longer but they are still under a desk for the day and as long as they get love, attention, reward and free running guide dogs are happy just to be with their owner they dont want anything else. Also regarding the food issue at work i have problems and people will obviously pester and try to feed your dog and the same at school kids being kids adults being adults its all the same no worse than each other and all the children were given an assembly on the day of the autumn term saying not to distract paris and not to feed her and i hear its going really really well. ill stop for now.

  9. It's quite a complicated issue. On one hand you will have kids becoming more independent, and another you will have all the stress of GCSE'S and schoolwork. Plus, when you are a teen you tend to be a bit wild. I don't really know to be honest. I think that the district teams will be seriously stretched if this happens. We should see if we could get a GDMI or rehab worker or someone from Guidedogs to answer some of our questions.Take care, xoxo.

  10. It is a complicated issue, which some will agree with and others not. Alot of the dogs that go to the children, will be very low work load dogs. Which means they dont require a heavy work load and are technially lazy. In a way that is good for children who dont have many routes and if they want to go out as they get older they can, as long as the dog is happy with other family members it wont be very bothered. Its a good way to get these dogs to work instead of just writing them off as un usuable. Adults tend to have heavier workloads as they go out alot more to many places, in which these dogs wouldnt cope with at all well. I know 2 people where i live that have low work load dogs, because they dont go very far. Because of this, they are allowed to free run their dogs everyday so they dont end up huge. One of them feeds his dog once a day as well.I think gdmi's will be intially stretched but they are training up more and more GDMI's. Alot of the children training will be very quick with only one or two routes.i found out yesterday that all the current children trained with dogs, come from different parts of the Uk, so its not juat a lemington project, but it seems children will be given priority. Not many of the children that apply will recieve these dogs. Its a very tough process, harder than the ones for adults. They need to make sure they go to the right children, one's that are responsible enough and are sure that the partnership will last.

  11. Its certainly got us all talking anyway!Cheers for all the comments. Its the most popular topic on the blog so far.I'd like to do a Q and A sometime for the blog with a young guide dog owner, not to disagree or challenge them, but just to see how they solve all the problems that could potentially happen. I think it would be very interesting.

  12. i knew this would get a debate going and i have also realised that it is not just the leamington centre that have started the project and has been one that has been going on for a little while now but is now becoming more popular and as Terri says the dogs are low workload dogs, Pearce is a low work load dog who doesnt need much work to tire him out but gets a free run every day too because all i do is walk and ride on the bus every day to work and back again and for Pearce that is absolutely no problem and it is the same with Charlotte's dog Paris she is a low workload dog who doesnt at all mind to sleep most of the day so just please be happy for the children who get this chance of independance because no jealousy will change this and it has been an obvious success otherwise guide dogs wouldnt have carried it forward to dropping the age limit completely.

  13. I can't wait to see if you get a Q and A from a younger guidedog owner. It would be interesting to compare it to an adults. When you have a low work load dog, will the dog be able to adapt to more work as the person gets older? By the way Jenifer is it okay if i recommend your blog to a person on Facebook? It's just that Guidedogs have a fan page on there, and they are talking about maybe creating a forum for guidedog owners. There is a woman on there who is a first time guidedog applicant, and i thought she might find your blog useful, as i have.Take care, xoxox, and hope this is okay.

  14. Yeah Torie that's absolutely fine. She can contact me too if she wants, if I'll be of any help. I'm glad someone finds it even a little bit useful!To answer your question about the workload, a dog with a low workload would probably be happy enough to be like that all the time. If you thought you might learn more routes with the dog as time goes on, they'd probably match you with a high workload dog anyway. They will know all this from your matching visit and assessment.OJ is very active and will walk wherever I need him too and do as much work as I need in the country or busier town/city without complaining. He's also just as happy to sleep most of the day when I'm at work. He seems to know that's his job when I'm in the office, but if I need him to go somewhere he's always willing to go.I think this is one of the reasons why labs and lab crosses are such suitable breeds. They can adapt easily to different situations and are generally fairly laid back and relaxed.

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