Launched in 2012 after a successful pilot, the Buddy Scheme was introduced. The Guide Dog for the Blind Association matches dogs specifically with either a blind or visually impaired child or within a school or organisation environment.
“Buddy dogs are guide dogs that haven’t qualified to work as mobility assistance dogs but can improve the quality of life of blind and partially sighted children and young people by contributing to sensory and physical development, enhancing their confidence and self esteem, countering isolation and depression, increasing levels of exercise and improving their communication and mobility skills. In some cases a buddy dog can help to assess whether a young person could benefit from a guide dog in the future.The Buddy Dog Service relates to stage three of the mobility journey, preparing individuals for guide dog ownership and developing their confidence to move to stage four of the mobility journey. The Buddy Dog Service also relates to maintaining our life long commitment to our clients and dogs.” http://www.guidedogs.org.uk/services/buddy-dogs
Guide dogs believe creating that bond between a child and a dog has countless benefits and helps them to learn about responsibility and teaches them about companionship.
There are two types of Buddy Dogs:
- Young People’s buddy dog within a Family Environment
The young visually impaired person is carefully matched with an dog. It then, with support, becomes the the young person responsibility to care for the buddy dog, with such things as feeding and personal care. The buddy dog will aid the young person in establishing the necessary skills for possible future guide dog ownership.
- School or Organisation buddy dog
This type of partnership will benefit a larger number of blind and partially sighted children and young people and enable them to have regular contact with a dog in their home.
There are many psychological and physiological benefits associated with having a buddy dog.
A Buddy Dog can:
- Facilitate communication and social contact
- Promote a more varied, interesting and active lifestyle
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Provide companionship and comfort
- Increase positive emotions
The proven benefits of the buddy dog service are:
- Enhanced social interaction and interpersonal skills
- Enhanced learning and development and engagement in education
- Increased physical activity levels
- Improved confidence and self-esteem
- Development of an individuals sense of responsibility and greater independence and maturity
- Promotion of trust and nurturing behaviours
- Development of bonding/social attachment
The Buddy Dog Service differs from our Guide Dog Service in that Buddy Dogs are not trained to assist with mobility or to perform specific tasks. Therefore, Buddy Dogs are not classified as ‘assistance dogs’ and do not have statutory access rights to public places (restaurants, shopping centres, supermarkets, hotels, public transportation, etc).”
If you are interested for applying for a buddy dog under the scheme, you need to make an enquiry with your Local Mobility Team. Once an enquiry has been made, your local mobility team will send you a Buddy Dogs Application Form and Buddy Dogs Information Pack.
If you would like to fond out more information about the Buddy Scheme please visit http://www.guidedogs.org.uk/services/buddy-dogs.