Guide dogs for vision loss: what you need to know


Guide dogs are specially trained dogs used by people with vision loss. These dogs help blind people move safely from place to place. They are excellent for helping a blind person avoid obstacles, stop at elevation changes, and watch out for oncoming traffic. Guide dogs also remember common routes, providing their owner with greater confidence and independence when traveling.

A brief history of guide dogs

Guide dogs have been around since World War II. They were trained as guides for blind war veterans. With the help of Dorothy Harrison Eustis, author of the 1927 article on guide dogs, a blind man named Morris Frank spread the news about guide dogs across the United States. Dorothy Eustis trained Buddy, a dog that was later taken to the United States by Morris Frank. , as the country’s first guide dog.

How to get a guide dog

To obtain a guide dog, a blind person must be matched with the dog adapted to his lifestyle. There are also other factors they need to consider. The goal is to have a successful guide dog partnership characterized by a strong bond and a healthy support system.

According to Guide Dogs of America, you must meet a number of requirements to qualify for a guide dog training program:

  • be legally blind
  • Be at least 18 years old or older
  • Follow and complete orientation and mobility training
  • Be physically able to walk 1 or 2 miles a day
  • Be financially able to properly care for a guide dog
  • Have three or more routes to travel regularly

What determines the choice of a guide dog?

Beyond meeting the qualifications, pairing you with the perfect guide dog is a process that takes time and effort. Some of the factors that determine which dog becomes your guide dog include:

Dog Breed. Different breeds of dogs have been trained as guide dogs. Some common breeds include Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Poodles, Labrador Retrievers, and Labradoodles.

allergies. If you are allergic to dog fur or saliva, Standard Poodles are recommended. Allergic reactions occur due to salivary lipocalin proteins in a dog’s skin and saliva. These proteins are activated in the environment when a dog sheds hair or peels its skin. The Royal National Institute for the Blind recommends frequent hair brushing to prevent loose dog hair from accumulating in the environment.

The environment. The environment and activity of the owner also determine the type of dog he adopts. Active guide dogs are paired with people with active lives, while slower breeds are paired with people who prefer a slower approach to life.

Other factors include the walking speed of the dog and the person, the physical strength of the dog and the future owner, the amount of work done by the future owner and the type of transport preferred by the future owner.

Guide dog training

Future guide dogs to be trained are chosen based on their obedience, intelligence, mobility and physique. Guide dogs are also trained based on factors known to the owner and the environment they are visiting.

Training and socialization for guide dogs is done early when they are still very young puppies. The process involves many people and continues throughout the dog’s life. Once the puppy is about 8 weeks old, puppy breeders teach it basic obedience. They return to the parent organization for formal guide dog training. Professional instructors are responsible for this part of the process, which can take months. Once training is complete, the dog is paired with a blind handler.

If you want a guide dog for vision loss, you need to be trained in how to deal with it. To qualify for training and pairing with a guide dog, you must also use American Sign Language (ASL). Guide dogs for vision loss recognize and respond to hand signals and ASL. They are trained to do this with or without vocal support, so such a dog may not alert you to sounds like a doorbell, phone ringing, or alarm.

You will be trained by guide dog mobility instructors, which is usually a month-long process with four phases of increasing difficulty. Activities may include building a rapport with the dog trainer, reviewing older lessons like sit and stand, assessing dog skills, and learning dog personality. The initial stages of training are within the organization, then activities are moved to quiet streets and later to louder, busier streets.

Ultimately, you and your guide dog should be able to avoid obstacles, stop in traffic, walk on sidewalks, and turn properly.

How do guide dogs know directions?

Guide dogs help people with vision loss avoid dangers and obstacles ahead. The guide dog owner understands his area of ​​residence because the guide dog receives his instructions. When crossing the road, the owner listens to traffic noises and understands when it is safe to cross. The owner gives the command to cross and the guide dog chooses when it is safe to do so.

Before traveling, the owner decides where and when he wants to go. The owner’s voice and manual signals allow the dog to understand the direction and the action to be taken, away from obstacles.

Guide dogs are highly trained in their work. They work only for their owners and are reliable companions. If you see one on the street, resist the urge to pet it, as it can cause a distraction. If you have one in your home, it’s as important as all the other family members, but with added responsibility.


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