A wet yellow Labrador stands in water coming up to the middle of his legs. His mouth is open and he is looking off to the side

Adopt a Dog

When a dog is not able to serve as a Leader Dog, we call the dog "career changed." Career changed dogs may go on to "work" in a different job such as a therapy dog, customs dog, search and rescue dog or another service, but others are available for adoption to loving homes.

How to Adopt

Leader Dogs for the Blind requires that all prospective applicants attend an orientation about our career change program. Orientations are offered free of charge. If you are interested in adopting a dog, applications will be available at the orientation and may be submitted with a $25 fee. A $1,000 tax-deductible donation is required at the time of adoption.

Upcoming Orientation

Our next career change orientation will take place on our campus on November 4, 2018 from 1–3:30 p.m.

Career Changed Dogs FAQs

Where do the dogs that are available for adoption come from?

The puppies from our breeding colony are raised by volunteer puppy raisers until they are 12–15 months of age. We have puppy raisers around the nation who have welcomed Future Leader Dogs into their homes. There are also several prisons throughout the country that have inmates raising puppies as well. When a dog is returned to Leader Dogs for the Blind from the puppy raiser, it receives a thorough medical evaluation including vaccine updates, neutering, and x-rays checking for early signs of hip and elbow dysplasia.

What breeds are available for adoption?

  • Labrador retrievers – 85%
  • Golden retrievers – 10%
  • Labrador/golden crosses – 3%
  • German shepherds – 2%

Why do dogs become available for adoption?

Dogs that are career changed for medical reasons may have allergies, hip or elbow dysplasia, etc. Being career changed for behavioral reasons may mean that the dog had a high level of distraction or excitability, anxiety, lack of initiative, etc. Retired Leader Dogs that have been returned to Leader Dogs for the Blind by their handlers are occasionally available for adoption.

Have the dogs received guide dog training?

The dogs available for adoption have varying levels of training depending on what point in the training process the dog was career changed. Some dogs do not undergo any formal training if they have a medical condition preventing them from being a working Leader Dog. Other dogs are career changed much later in the process after having been through several months of training. Most of the dogs available for adoption are career changed for medical or behavioral reasons. However, we occasionally have retired Leader Dogs available for adoption.

What is the cost of adoption?

In addition to the $25 application fee, there is a $1,000 donation required at the time of adoption. This donation helps offset the cost of the breeding, health, care and training that the dog received while on campus. This donation is tax-deductible.

How long is the waiting list to adopt?

We cannot estimate the wait time for a dog as we cannot predict which dogs will need placement nor the reason they are career changed. Our team works hard to make the best match for each individual dog and family. Therefore, the wait time can range between a few weeks to several years.

Keep in mind:

  • The wait time for a female is significantly longer than the wait for a male.
  • Labradors are the most common breed available. The wait for a golden retriever, German shepherd or cross is much longer.
  • Applicants with no breed or gender preference will be matched with a dog quicker than those with strong preferences.
  • Applicants willing to adopt dogs with medical conditions will be matched with a dog quicker than those who will not.

How old are career changed dogs?

The majority of the dogs available for adoption are 1–2 years old. Some dogs are younger and some are older.

Can a career changed dog be used as a therapy or service dog?

Leader Dogs for the Blind partners with several organizations who adopt career changed dogs that have the potential to succeed in their respective programs. Every career changed dog is evaluated for its potential to work in an alternative career prior to being available for adoption. Dogs we feel are suitable for alternative careers are adopted by organizations that train working, therapy or service dogs. If you are interested in a therapy or service dog, we encourage you to visit Assistance Dogs International.

Host a Leader Dog Mom

Consider hosting a Leader Dog mom in your home. This volunteer opportunity has a female Labrador retriever or golden retriever living in your home during her breeding career of two to three years. This includes the dog whelping her puppies in your home and caring for them for the first six weeks of life. After the Leader Dog mom is retired, you get to adopt her and have her with you for years to come.