Labrador Retriever guide dogs resting.
Guide dog training.
Guide dogs are
assistance dogs trained to lead
visually impaired people around
obstacles. They are commonly but incorrectly called "Seeing Eye" dogs, since
Seeing Eye is the name of only one of many guide dog training schools.
These dogs spend their early lives in
homes where they are
socialized through exposure to loving attention, and taught rudimentary
obedience training. Once potential guide dogs reach a certain age, they then
begin their intense schooling as assistance animals while residing at a training
school before being matched with compatible
These matches are cemented through a 30-day training course, wherein the
human half of the team learns to control the dog and interpret its signals. Very
few visually impaired people go through this training, and these candidates must
already have fully developed
orientation and mobility skills before they do.
Dogs are partially (red-green)
blind and so guide dogs cannot see
colors the way
people do, nor are they able to interpret
signs. The human half of the guide dog team does the leading, based upon
skills acquired through previous mobility training.
In several countries, guide dogs are exempt from regulations against the
presence of animals in places such as restaurants and public transportation.
The first guide dog training schools were established in
World War, to enhance the mobility of returning
were blinded in combat. The
United States followed suit in
1929 with the
Seeing Eye in
This school was followed, two years later, by the
British Guide Dog Association.
Early on, trainers recognized which breeds produced dogs with the most
appropriate temperaments for this work, so that, now,
Labradors and sometimes
German Shepherd Dogs, are more likely than dogs of other breeds to be
chosen, although by no means does this indicate that only these three are
appropriate (for example,
are also used but as they have a long adolescence they are less common.) The
preferred breed is a Golden Retriever/Labrador cross because both breeds (which
are in fact closely related) are known for their intelligence, responsiveness to
obedience, and early maturation. There is also a recent trend of breeding a
Labrador with a
Poodle, to create a new
hypoallergenic breed called a
Labradoodle that is more suitable for those who suffer
Less common breeds also trained as guide dogs include Collies, Vizlas, and
Guide dog training
Guide dog puppies generally leave the breeding facility at about 8-10 weeks
of age, where they go to 'puppy raisers' or 'puppy walkers.' These are families
that volunteer to give training and basic commands to a potential guide dog for
up to 16 months, during which time the raisers or walkers expose the puppy to as
many real-world experiences as possible.
At the end of the 16-month period, the puppy is brought back to the guide
dogs school. At this point, some of the schools conduct a test to analyze the
dog's potential for guide dog work. If the dog passes this test, they continue
on to harness training, where they learn to help a person move around safely,
including such achievements as navigating curbs and avoiding overhead obstacles.
The dogs may be taught additional skills, such as retrieving items for their
At the end of approximately two to three months of individual training, blind
students are brought to the school to work with the instructors and get a guide
dog. After an additional 3 months, the team is ready to go out and be on their
Guide dog training schools
The Seeing Eye (Morristown,
The Guide Dogs of America (Sylmar,
Guide Dogs for the Blind (San
Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind Inc. (Smithtown,
Guiding Eyes for the Blind (Yorktown,
Pilot Dogs (Columbus,
Guide Dogs NSW/ACT (North
Sydney NSW, Australia)
Canine Vision (Oakville,
Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (Burghfield
Common, Reading, UK)
The Eye Mate (Tokyo,
| Guide Dog
| Hearing Dog
| Psychiatric Service Dog
| Seizure Alert Dog
| Service Dog
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