Children’s Visual Companion Dog

photo of 6 yr old Kaitlyn holding Slick's harness and using her caneChildren’s Visual Companion Dogs (CVCD) are building bridges to independence and mobility for blind youth and their families.  These life changing dogs increase confidence,  self-esteem and stability, and they improve posture, gait and pace for blind and low-vision children while offering a unique and innovative means of travel.

A child who is more motivated to go places and explore as the result of using a CVC dog as a mobility tool. The child’s mind engages in active learning while holding the harness verses a passive approach to travel when holding an adult’s hand. The child receives environmental input through the harness as well as through the cane tip. Moving smoothly through space, feeling the dog pull to change directions or go around obstacles, and detecting surface and sound changes are all possible with this dual mode of travel.

When traveling with a dog, families have reported more positive interactions with the public. Instead of the child receiving remarks of pity the conversations tend to be focused on the child’s capabilities. Parents become a more active participant in the Orientation and Mobility training for the child; promoting a positive attitude towards a skill that is necessary to be an independent adult who actively engages in community and personal of 7 yr old sawyer with dog Candy in harness

Orientation and Mobility is the foundation that supports the child’s lifetime pursuits of independence and happiness. Being able to travel independently will affect all aspects of the child’s future. Traveling often and to a wide variety of places teaches a child at a young age how fun it is to get out into the world to enjoy people and experiences. Using a CVC dog and engaging the family as more active members of this O&M process has the potential to increase the child’s confidence and motivation in the area of travel skills.

We are currently reviewing student applications for children’s visual companion dog placements. If you would like to apply for an OccuPaws’ CVC Dog, please complete our CVCD Student Application (Word Document) or our CVCD Student Application (PDF) or please Contact Us for additional information.