What is a Guide Dog?
Guide dogs are assistance dogs trained to lead blind or vision impaired people around obstacles.
Although the dogs can be trained to navigate various obstacles, they are partially (red-green) color blind and are not capable of interpreting street signs. The human half of the guide dog team does the directing, based upon skills acquired through previous mobility training. The handler might be likened to an aircraft's navigator, who must know how to get from one place to another, and the dog is the pilot, who gets them there safely.
In several countries, guide dogs, along with most service and hearing dogs, are exempt from regulations against the presence of animals in places such as restaurants and public transportation.
References to guide dogs date at least as far back as the mid-18th century; the second line of the popular verse alphabet "A was an Archer" is most commonly "B was a Blind-man/Led by a dog". In the 19th century, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in her verse novel Aurora Leigh, has the title character, in describing her conversation with Lady Waldemar, remark "The blind man walks wherever the dog pulls / And so I answered" (Book V., ll. 1028-9).
The first guide dog training schools were established in Germany during World War I, to enhance the mobility of returning veterans who were blinded in combat. The United States followed suit in 1929 with The Seeing Eye in Nashville, Tennessee (relocated in 1931 to Morristown, New Jersey). One of the founders of The Seeing Eye was America's first guide dog owner, Nashville resident Morris Frank. Frank was trained with German Shepherd Dog Buddy in Switzerland in 1928.
The first guide dogs in Britain were German Shepherds. Three of these first were Judy, Meta and Folly who were handed over to their new owners, veterans blinded in World War I, on 6 October 1931. Judy's new owner was Musgrave Frankland. This was followed, in 1934, by the start of The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association in Great Britain.
Early on, trainers began to recognize which breeds produced dogs most appropriate for guide work; today, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and German Shepherds are most likely to be chosen, though by no means does this mean other breeds, such as Yorkshire Terriers, Poodles, Collies, Vizslas, Dobermans, Rottweilers, Boxers and Airedale Terriers are not. Crosses such as Golden Retriever/Labrador (which are popular due to both breeds' known intelligence, work-ethic, and early maturation) and Labradoodles (Labrador/Poodles bred to provide dogs with less shedding for those with allergies to hair or dander) are also common.
Guide Dog Accessibility
Despite regulations or rules that deny access to animals in restaurants and other public places, in many countries, guide dogs and other types of assistance dogs are protected by law, and therefore may accompany their handlers most places that are open to the public. Laws and regulations vary worldwide:
What does a guide dog do?
A guide dog assists the blind person in getting to points a to b (or other) safetly and efficiantly. It also weaves the person through traffic, obsticles and other hazzards that might come in ones path. It also finds and locates objects, places, landmarks etc for the blind person.
What is the dog's uniform?
All guide dogs wear a vest like harness with a handle attached at the top. Most harnesses today bear a color swatch, colored handles or school logo on them to identify where the dog was trained.
Is a guide dog allowed to accompany its handler into restaurants or stores?
The ADA allows any type of service dog in uniform/harness to accompany its handler. If the dog is rejected or the handler is turned away the public place is discriminating the person who depends on the animal's service. For more info go to Guide Dog Law.
How is a guide dog trained?
How does a guide dog know where to go?no answer
What happens to a dog/puppy when they are released?
Not every puppy can become a guide dog. They are put therough riggerous obedience training, socialization and tests to determine if they have what it takes. There are young adults who need a career change or simply just prefer being a house pet. There are adults who can no longer work after a certain ammount of years either due to illness, age or injury. When this happens a dog or puppy becomes released from their duties and put up for adoption. Every school has a release and adopt program. Be aware these dogs aren't cheap and there are restrictions or recommendations from each school. Not to mention a waiting list. Go to the Released & Adoption section for further information. This section deals with most (if not all) tips in what a person/family should take into consideration before adopting a released puppy/guide dog.
Can I pet a guide dog? Absolutely not. Doing so will distract him/her from their job. If this happens the dog can place itself, its owner or both into harms way. Or make a mistake enroute to the person's destination. It's best you not touch the dog, but if you know the handler (and the dog is off duty - not wearing its harness.) simply ask if it's ok to pet. It's rude to just walk up and pet. Even off harness some handlers prefer you not touch the dog period. Be prepared if you are rejected from petting the pooch.
Can I feed the dog?
Absolutely not. Feeding a service dog in or out of harness is not a good thing. Handlers have their dogs on a special diet (or brand of dog food/treats and schedule.). Feeding them "people" food can make the dog sick. Feeding the dog a doggie treat can give the dog (any dog) the idea that their handler isn't serious/strict/leader enough. So it's best not to offer any food.
Can I offer treats/food as a donation? How I go about this?
Some people do this as a polite offer/gesture to hand the handler a bag of treats. For example if a group of people are hosting a presentation where handler is the speaker there are a few ways to offer. But be prepared if the handler declines politely. If the person is a stranger, just offer them a gift card to their local pet store. They can use this as a donation towards pet food, treats, toys and or other things that a dog needs off duty. If you know the handler well enough, ask before hand if it's ok. If the handler agrees, ask what specific type of brand the dog can have. Because some dogs might be allergic to certain brands of food/treat item. Or just hand the handler some money and hope/pray that the money is used properly. Most schools ask you not do this because the handler could become accustomed to getting a gift for the dog at every meeting. Or the handler/dog expects something in return for making a appearance. However some dog teams are grateful for your generosity so do the polite/right thing before doing the wrong thing.
Should I talk to the dog?
No, doing this will distract him. Seriously - put yourself in the handler's shoes. How would YOU like it if someone were to talk to the dog and not you the human? Some feel that unimportance role where the dog is more important than the human being. It can be a very uncomfortable, very embarassing feeling.
Why wont the handler tell me its name? If I know, should I yell out the dog's name?
Most if not all schools ask their students not to give the dog's name out. It's a safety issue - if the dog's name is called out other than its owner, the dog can put it or its handler in danger. The dogs are trained to only listen to commands given to via their owner. But there will be a few situations where the dog will know the person well enough to want to run up to it. Doing this can result in the dog getting a correction. Be aware that the person might decline your answer and say why.
I want to help a guide dog team in a public place. Should I grab the harness, leash or persons arm?No - grabbing the harness or leash would be like grabbing the stearing wheel and forcing the car into a specific destination/direction. It's best you ask the person if they and their dog need sighted assistance. See follow up question below on how to assist the person. But don't ever just grab the persons arm and assume they need help. They or their dog could sense danger or any other hazzard and could take offense to this.
So how should I go about asking for help?
First approach the team in question. Second, gentley touch the person and ask if they need assistance. State that you sense they need help and offer your right arm. Guide dog schools ask that the blind person take your right arm because the dog in harness is alawys on the left. Third, ask where the person was going and if you know where to go walk with them. If you do not, walk with the team until you find someone who can assist. Fourth, make sure the blind person knows of any obsticles, hazzards and landmarks along the way. It is your job as the sighted guide to give this information to the person. By giving them information where certain landmarks (i.e. statues, specific buildings, permenant decorations.) are can be useful information for the dog at a later time. Finally, when you've reached your destiantion alert the person that they are there and where certain points of the destination (i.e. steps, doors, mailboxes etc.) are. If you are a regular on this route introduce yourself and offer a contact card if the person needs help from you. But once the guide dog team gets the route down perfectly your assistance will no longer be needed. But it gives the blind person a assurance that you'll be there for them as a friend to call on when they do need help at a later date or time.
If I see someone pet the dog on duty should I yell?
No. Just state to the handler that someone was petting your dog. If they continue to pet, the handler will step in and ask the person in question to stop. This reason is: the stranger will get confused as to whose in charge, you or the blind person. If you constenately step in a few things can happen. One is that the blind person will depend on your eyes and you to step in as some might be too shy. Or the stranger will feel blind person isn't strict enough or responsible enough. If you are a constent traveler with the dog team ask the handler what would be approprate.
Should I tell the blind person to stop, give speed or give direction?
No, this might lead into stearing. And again the dog might feel its handler isn't doing their job in giving the commands or trust into the dog. Doing this would result in sighted guide (see the question on how to assist a blind person in need of help.) and could very well confuse the dog. If this is the first time in a area the person isn't familiar get them oriented by walking with them. After they've gotten things under control quietly be their walking companion.
Preparing for Emergancies & Disasters
Emergency preparedness for your service animal or pet. Answers to the most commonly asked questions.
Source: American Council for the Blind
Do I need emergency plans for my service animal or pet?
Yes. You never know when or where a disaster may occur. Just as you make emergency plans for your family, it is important to include your pet or service animal in those plans.
What should I do first?
Identification. Make sure that your service animal or pet has current identification tags, including both your home number and your out-of-state contact number. Most service animals already have this and for a pet it could be as simple as affixing duct tape to their collar and writing the information on it in permanent marker. It is also a good idea to get your animal either tattooed or micro-chipped.
Do I need supplies?
Yes. Just as you should create a Disaster Kit for your family, you will need one for your service animal or pet.
What should be in my Animal Disaster Kit?
Are service animals allowed in shelters?
Service animals must be permitted in shelters if they are trained to assist a person with a disability.
Are there any exceptions to this rule?
There are only two reasons a person with a disability may be asked to remove his service animal from the shelter:
How can I care for my pet during a disaster?
Make a list of pet-friendly places and hotels, check with friends or relatives outside your area. You can also contact your local shelter, boarding facilities and veterinarian for information.
Access for Service Animals
Wikipedia: Guide Dog