Working as a guide dog requires peak physical and mental shape, so guide dogs typically retire just before they enter old age. Older dogs are usually sharp enough to keep working, but they may slow down a little, which hinders their ability to keep up with the brisk pace of their handlers. Retirement is usually at age eight or 10; but some work for a little longer, and some guide dogs retire earlier if they're having trouble with the work. A few dogs from the Guiding Eyes for the Blind program are still working at age 13!
When a guide dog retires, the handler will get a new dog, but he or she may also have the option to keep the retired dog as a pet. If the handler can't keep two dogs, then the guide dog school looks for a new home for the retired dog. The school may track down the original puppy raisers, or it may place the dog in a new loving home. Schools generally have a waiting list of people who want to adopt a retiree. After all, former guide dogs are extremely intelligent and friendly and have perfect manners -- who wouldn't want one? Giving a retired guide dog a loving home is also an excellent way to help reward these amazing animals for a lifetime of hard, important work.
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