As much as we love our fur babies and expect nothing from them but love and companionship, there are many pups who become working dogs and some of them have a huge responsibility resting on their fury shoulders.

One such example would be guide dogs, who are responsible for guiding their owners safely through a world, which they are unable to see. The most popular breeds used as guide dogs would be Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers, as they are able to undergo highly complex training and they are able to remain calm when under pressure.

Training a Guide Dog

Training a guide dog is a process which lasts from birth up to eighteen months. As its initial training, a puppy would receive house training, as well as obedience training. This training is then followed by formal guide dog training. This also lasts for a period of a few months. When the dog is between twelve and eighteen months old, he or she would be introduced to their visually impaired owner and they would then train together for an extensive period of time. This could take up to one year.

It is vitally important that the person and the guide dog are compatible and they both need to learn the correct commands and responses. As the guide dog will ultimately become the non-seeing person’s eyes, it is important that they both know exactly what to do and therefore, the bond and level of trust between guide dog and his or her visually impaired owner is of the utmost importance.

Apart from the extensive training, guide dogs also undergo testing, before they are released to their new non-seeing owner, to ensure that they are fit for the work which they will be required to do. However, if the Training School deems that a dog would not make a suitable guide dog, the dog may be adopted by other loving pet parents. However, this adoption process is a little more intricate than normal dog adoption processes, due to their special training.

The Individual’s Responsibility

Although a visually impaired person relies greatly on the abilities of his or her guide dog, guide dogs are primarily trained to go where a visually impaired person directs them to go. Thus, it remains the responsibility of the person to listen to sounds, such as people, traffic and other (movement) sounds, in order to ascertain whether it would be safe to proceed. However, if the guide dog considers it unsafe, then he or she will refuse the command. This scenario is referred to as “intelligent disobedience”.

A Guide Dog’s Abilities

Unlike some other working dogs, guide dogs are trained to judge things such as height and width, as to ensure that their visually impaired owner does not walk into objects or bump his or her head and/or shoulders. Not to mention their ability to judge when a situation seems unsafe, which is vitally important for the safety of their non-seeing owners.

Where are Guide Dogs allowed?

According to Federal and State Laws, a non-seeing person with a guide dog is allowed to go wherever the general public is allowed. This includes any stores, restaurants, coffee shops, pharmacies, medical centers, airplanes, as well as cabs and other public transport facilities, to mention a few.

Never Pet a Guide Dog

One thing which we should all remember, is that a guide dog is a working dog. Thus, it is vitally important not to pet, talk to or feed a guide dog without asking permission from the owner. As they are working dogs, they should never be distracted.

Although they play a vitally important role in the lives of their non-seeing owners, they are still dogs and also have the same physical and emotional needs as their canine counterparts; they also need some time to rest and play. Therefore, when the harness comes off, they are free to have some fun.

Interesting Facts

• A guide dog’s training starts from birth.
• Guide dogs are highly intellectual animals and have the ability to remain calm.
• Guide dogs are specially trained for what they do – they become the eyes for their visually impaired owners.
• Guide dogs are trained to judge the safety of a situation, as well as height and width.
• When a guide dog is wearing a harness, it means that he or she is working.
• If it is unsafe to cross a street, a guide dog will not obey such a command from his or her non-seeing owner.
• The normal career span of a guide dog is seven to ten years. They then retire and may be adopted by loving pet parents.
• The first official guide dog Training School was started in Germany.
• The first guide dog in America was a German Shepherd named Buddy. He was trained in Switzerland in 1928 and brought back to America by Morris Frank, from Nashville.
• Guide dogs are not only working dogs, they are also dedicated and very loving companions.

It is wonderful to know that their hard work does not go unnoticed, as we also celebrate the work that these amazing fur babies do, as 29th January is National Seeing-Eye dog day, a special day, dedicated to all these extra special pups!

Love, The PetsWell Team

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