Anyone who has ever seen guide dogs and their owners walking through town, getting on a bus or waiting to cross the road cannot have failed to be amazed at how clever and highly intelligent those dogs are. I for one find them highly fascinating. Although the guide dogs are trained to navigate obstacles, they are partly colour blind and cannot read signs on the road or interpret signs. The guide dog does the guiding and the human half of the team does the directing based on skills acquired in mobility training. The dog is there to make sure the handler gets to where he or she wants to get to safely. The dog cannot do this if the handler does not know how to get from one place to the next. The handler is the navigator and the dog the pilot.
Guide dog training schools were first established in Germany in the First World War to aid in the mobility of returning veterans who were blinded in the fighting. In 1929 the United States opened The Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey. The schools trademark “seeing eye dog” is sometimes used as a ubiquitous term for guide dogs. American dog trainer Dorothy Harrison Eustis, while living in Switzerland, was working with German Shepherds to try them as working dogs. It was while she was there she visited the school in Germany. She was so fascinated by what she saw there she wrote an article called “The Seeing Eye”, about the school, which was published in The Saturday Evening post’s November 5, 1927 edition. She was contacted soon after by a blind Tennessean man, Morris Frank, who then enlisted her to train a dog for him. He then became one of the founders of The Seeing Eye. German Shepherds were the first guide dogs to be used in Britain and three of these were called Judy, Meta and Folly, and were given to their new owners, veterans who were blinded in The First World War, on October 6 1931. In 1934 The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association began in Great Britain.Our website provides info on service dog letters ca
What guide dogs are trained for? As guide dogs need to direct their handlers around various obstacles they need to be very well trained and alert to all kinds of dangers. A guide dog needs to: Walk in as straight a line as possible and ignoring distractions such as people and other animals, Walk at an easy and steady pace, on the left side of the handler and just in front, On command turn right and left and move forward and stop when instructed, Has to stop at curbs until it is safe to proceed or when told to walk on, When the handler needs to use an elevator guide the handler to the buttons, Be able to respond to various verbal commands, Not to proceed up and down stairs until told to do so, Help the handler board buses and other public transport
I think one of the most important aspects of guide dog training is to disobey any command which would put the handler in danger. Crossing roads is one of these situations in which guide dogs comes into their own. As dogs are colour blind they cannot tell if a traffic light is red or green so the handler has to judge when to cross the road by listening to the flow of traffic. Has it stopped or still moving?
Guide dog breeds, right from the beginning of guide dog training, trainers recognized which breed of dog was more suited to the task. German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Labradors are chosen more often over other breeds but do not mean breeds such as Poodles, Dobermans, Collies, Airedale Terriers and Boxers are not chosen.