Dogs are often considered humanity’s best friend. For thousands of years, people and dogs have worked together. While many families now keep dogs primarily as companions, dogs have long helped us go about our lives.
Dogs might be used to help us hunt, protect livestock from other animals, like wolves, herd livestock, and carry out various other jobs. One of the most important jobs a dog can have is as a guide dog.
Unfortunately, some people do not have as good vision, hearing, and other senses as other people. In some cases, a blind person can’t see at all or can only see a little bit. Imagine walking around your home or school with your eyes closed. That’d be very difficult, wouldn’t it?
That’s why some people with vision impairments turn to guide dogs, which are sometimes also called seeing eye dogs or leader dogs. These dogs can see for people and guide them. A guide dog might help a student get around school. Or a guide dog could help someone find the grocery store.
Guide dogs are very important, especially for the people who rely on them. When you start a job, you often have to be trained to do that job. This is true for guide dogs as well, and special canine trainers train dogs to work as guides for people with disabilities.
Let’s learn more about guide dogs together!
What Is A Guide Dog?
A guide dog is a dog that helps disabled people. Usually, those who are blind or suffer a severe vision impairment get around. A guide dog may guide someone through the mall, to school, or to a grocery store.
Seeing-eye dogs help people avoid cars and other obstacles. They get extensive training from canine trainers.
Guide Dog Facts for kids
- There are about 10,000 guide dogs in the USA
- A service dog is allowed into most places.
- The Labrador Retriever is the most common guide dog breed.
- Many guide dogs spend two years in school!
- Many potential puppy guide dogs flunk out of school.
- Guide dogs are working dogs and have a job.
- They are also called “seeing eye” dogs.
What does a Guide Dog do?
Guide dogs are specially trained dogs that help people with disabilities get around.
They are sometimes called “seeing eye” dogs because their primary job is to help people with vision impairments get around. They may also be called “leading dogs” because they lead people.
A service animal is highly trained, and when they’re helping people, they are performing as a working dog that has a job. Many people with vision impairments rely on them to safely get around. They are not pets but instead working dogs.
Many different breeds of dogs can work as guide dogs.
Large, intelligent breeds like
- Doberman Pinscher
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador Retriever
- Border Collie
- German Shepherd
These are among the most common guide dogs.
Can you touch a guide dog?
Generally speaking, you shouldn’t pet or touch working guide dogs. While many dogs are simply companions who keep people company, seeing-eye dogs are often working. When people are working, they need to focus on their job and performing their tasks. The same is true for guide dogs. They have a job to do, and they need to focus on doing that job.
If you pet a guide dog while he or she is working, the dog may become distracted. This may make it hard for the person relying on the seeing-eye dog to get around. A person might even be put in danger. A distracted guide dog may not see a car coming, for example.
If you know the person who is using a seeing-eye dog and the dog is not currently working, you may ask permission if you can pet the dog. However, you should first ask your parents so they can determine if it is okay to ask.
For example, your parents might invite a friend over who relies on a seeing-eye dog. If the friend is sitting in a chair and the dog is relaxing on the floor nearby, it may be okay to pet him or her. However, make sure you ask your parents first, and then also the person who relies on the seeing-eye dog.
What can a guide dog do?
Guide dogs are often called “seeing eye” dogs because they act as eyes for a person who is blind. A guide dog can guide a person through a crowded market, watch for dangers (like moving cars), and otherwise watch out for a person who has trouble seeing.
Guide dogs are also trained to take people to specific local places in town, like the grocery store.
How are guide dogs trained?
Special human trainers have developed a lot of techniques or ways to train guide dogs. Leading dogs go through special training programs, much as people go to school. The people who train guide dogs often have a lot of experience with training dogs.
Before a dog becomes a leader dog, he or she must pass many different tests and challenges.
Each task requires specific training. This training is often like teaching a dog a trick, like shaking your hand. You walk the dog through the task, create verbal commands, and reward the dog when they get it right.
What skills do guide dogs learn?
Often, trainers start by training dogs to walk on a leash. Some dogs are better at walking on a leash than others, and leader dogs must be very good at walking on a leash. A seeing eye dog must also be good at “heeling” or walking at a pace with a person. Some dogs that aren’t good at heeling may pull their human around.
The trainers also teach dogs to recognize things like curbs and doors. Your parents probably taught you to look both ways before crossing the road to make sure that no cars are approaching. An assistance dog is likewise taught to stop for traffic.
Seeing-eye dogs are also taught how to walk in very straight lines. This makes it easier to lead people. Leading dogs are typically very good at avoiding obstacles. Dogs are also taught to walk on the proper side of the road, which in the United States is the left side.
Guide dogs are taught to recognize certain dangers, like moving cars. They are taught specific locations, like the grocery store. Guide dogs are also taught to watch for tree branches and other things that could hit their human.
Guide dogs are even taught “intelligence disobedience.” A leading dog will sometimes ignore its human’s command if that command puts the person in danger. For example, a dog may ignore a command to go forward if a car is approaching.
How effective are guide dogs?
Guide dogs are very effective. However, they also have their limitations. Dogs are color-blind, so they can’t tell when traffic lights change, for example. They can stop when they see a car approaching. Also, guide dogs aren’t like Uber.
You can’t simply tell a guide dog to take you to any location. Guide dogs often do know how to navigate to a few specific places, like the subway or the local grocery store.
How are guide dogs chosen?
Many guide dogs come from special breeders who breed dogs that have previously proven to be good seeing-eye dogs.
Some eye dogs come from outside of these breeding programs.
Either way, each dog is tested for various traits, such as being friendly and good at following directions.
Dogs are constantly tested and monitored while they’re in guide dog training schools. Many dogs flunk out of guide dog school.
How do guide dogs know where they’re going?
They are often trained to go to a number of important, specific locations.
A guide dog may know how to take their human to the local grocery store, the library, the subway, the hospital, and a few other places in a specific town, for example.
Trainers teach the dog where these locations are and how to get there. Then their human can ask to be guided there.