Your child gains an instant best friend.
Our skilled companion dogs give children and teens with vision loss a best friend, ready listener, and confidence-builder. They help kids get ready for a guide dog when they’re old enough and mature enough for greater independence. Children can learn the responsibilities of caring for a dog, preparing them for the joy they’ll feel and the discipline they’ll need as future guide dog teammates.
Building a bridge to a brighter future.
Created especially for your visually impaired child, we offer our gentle, skilled companion dogs for children and teens—at absolutely no cost.
Your child will gain confidence by learning how to care for the dog—feeding, grooming, walking, and playing—as well as a sense of ownership, responsibility, and maturity. A skilled companion dog will give your child extra love, encouragement, and purpose to help them move forward in the face of adversity. When the day comes to train with a guide dog, your child will experience a smoother transition to freedom and independence.
If you have a child between the ages of 5–17 and are interested in obtaining a skilled companion dog, apply today. Questions? Please email email@example.com or call 941.479.6598 to learn more.
“I have to say how much of a blessing it’s been for our family to see the independence that Sherman gives and that feeling of accomplishment he gives my daughter every day.”
— Cayla, mom to Brooklyn, with Skilled Companion Dog Sherman | Scottsboro, Alabama
How we Train Dogs for Children
What makes the best skilled companion dogs for children who are blind or Gold Star Family dog for a military family facing grief? Here’s a checklist of what it takes to be selected as a skilled companion dog for a child.
Education & Training
- 8 – 10 weeks of early education and socialization at our Puppy Academy.
- 14 – 18 months of house training, basic skills training, and real-world socialization with a trained volunteer puppy raiser.
- 1 – 6 months of professional training at Canine University, depending on each dog’s timing of career transfer out of the guide or service dog programs.
Health & Temperament
- Smart, healthy, and fit.
- Calm disposition, with a demonstrated ability to be highly comfortable with children.
- Extremely biddable—eager to please.
- Demonstrated preference for their handler over other dogs or people.
- Absolutely no sign of aggression or body sensitivity. For example, if a child with vision loss explores the dog using their sense of touch, the dog must be comfortable being handled and accidentally poked on occasion.
Basic & Advanced Skills
- Exceptional house manners; ignores toys on the floor and food on the counters, for example.
- Excellent response to basic cues, including sit, stay, come, place, down, leave it, and more.
- Strong leash manners with a stellar heel. A child with no vision may use a tandem leash, along with the parent, so dogs are trained accordingly.
Once a dog is selected as a candidate, a certified instructor takes the dog home for an extended stay. She observes the dog closely in a home environment, assesses its manners, and fine-tunes its training with a specific child in mind. After matching a dog with a child, she delivers the dog to the family and instructs them on how to care for their new forever-friend.
Children & Youth Q&A
What are the age requirements for children seeking a dog?
Can my visually impaired child get a guide dog?
Is Guide Dog Camp only for those who definitely know they want a guide dog?
Does a parent need to be in attendance for Guide Dog Camp?
Who can I contact to find out more about getting a companion dog for my visually impaired child?