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K9 Buddy 'Franny' lies on the grass with her partnerAt GDB, we believe that a dog can make a remarkable difference in any child's life by fostering a sense of caring, companionship and a sense of responsibility through the human/animal bond. Our K9 Buddy Program matches specially selected dogs to become wonderful friends to visually impaired children and young adults. A dog can contribute to sensory development, motivating a child to learn and enhancing self esteem. K9 Buddy dogs come from Guide Dogs for the Blind's own colony, but are not qualified to work as mobility assistance dogs; K9 Buddies are not trained to perform a service and are not considered Service Dogs as defined by the ADA (January 2010). K9 Buddies are offered free-of-charge, as are working Guide Dogs.

The K9 Buddy program connects the child/family with our community of puppy raisers and other supporters. This connection is as beneficial for our raisers and other constituents as it is for the child and their family. The program also connects the family with other services provided by agencies and organizations for the blind.

K9 Buddies are only placed in the eight Western states – the areas in which we have puppies being raised and the staff to support these programs.

Is your child ready for a K9 Buddy?

  • The K9 Buddy program matches dogs with blind youth under 18 years of age who have been diagnosed by an ophthalmologist as legally blind or with a degenerative eye disease that will render them legally blind.
  • A K9 Buddy might be a good choice for a blind youth who exhibits the emotional stability and maturity needed to care for the dog (feeding, grooming, exercising) and will treat it humanely.
  • A good candidate would be one who has a personal interest in having a K9 Buddy dog.
  • The applicant and family agree to be the primary care providers for the dog and to monitor and encourage the applicant to actively participate in the care of the dog. The applicant's home must have a secure backyard or dog run and be a safe environment for a dog.

The K9 Buddy Program differs from our Guide Dog Program in a few key ways:

  • K9 Buddies are not trained to assist with mobility or to perform a service. Therefore, children who have K9 Buddies and their buddy dogs are not granted access to public places (restaurants, shopping malls, grocery stores, hotels, public transportation, etc) with their dogs under the ADA.
  • Veterinary assistance and counseling services are provided only to active guide dog teams.

Families interested in applying for a K9 Buddy will be interviewed in their home to evaluate the environment as well as to determine the particular traits the family is looking for in a dog so an appropriate match can be made. After matching the family with a dog, the family will receive training and guidance from a Guide Dogs for the Blind staff member. Ownership of the K9 Buddy by the family will be granted after completion of the course of training. K9 Buddies are considered pets.

Apply for a K9 Buddy! If you would like to find out more about the K9 Buddy Program, please call the Outreach office at Guide Dogs for the Blind at 800-295-4050.