With the increasing number of Pet Guardians needing guide dogs, it is likely that you have come across a guide dog in your life – maybe a friend or family member of yours relies on one, or you’ve simply seen them from time to time in public. These dogs are usually recognizable by the leash and harness the wear while they work, and assist Guardians with vision impairment; though equally as important, they are not to be confused with service or assistance dogs, who help Guardians with mobility issues or other impairments.
Guide dogs carry out important work in order to help their Pet Guardian lead an independent and safe life. For this reason, it is important that the general public understand some do’s and don’ts associated with these furry friends.
DO respect the amount of training this dog and Guardian have undergone thanks to countless volunteers and trainers.
For these dogs, it is a lifelong journey to become a guide. According to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, puppies are placed with Volunteer Puppy Raisers at 8 weeks old in order to begin preparing for guide dog training. By the time they are four months old, they will have learned basic skills and commands. By 15 months, they will have been exposed to as many different environments as possible in order to build their confidence in unfamiliar situations. At roughly 12 months, the dog will begin working with a qualified Guide Dog Trainer and at 18 months the Pet Guardian is matched to the dog based on personality and physical attributes, needs, and situation.
DON’T assume that you or your pet can interact with a guide dog without the Guardian’s permission.
When a guide dog is in its harness, it is on duty. The dog cannot afford to be distracted from its task or it could risk their Guardian’s safety. That is why it is crucial to ask permission from the Guardian if you want to pet or interact with the guide dog in any way. Access for Sight-Impaired Consumers explains that even letting your own dog “say hello” to a guide dog on duty is a form of distraction.
DON’T think that the life of a guide dog is “all work and no play”.
While guide dogs help their Guardians remain safe in and out of the home, when they are at home and their harness is off, they are treated like a regular pet.
DO consider adopting retired or non-qualified guide dogs.
According to the BC & Alberta Guide Dogs organization some dogs may not make it through advanced training and will be released from the program once they have found a loving, forever home. Once Guide dogs retire, usually around the age of 10, they are placed with new Guardians. These dogs would be a great addition to any home as they are well-trained and obedient and are already adjusted to unfamiliar environments.
Do you have any questions about guide dogs? Reach out to us today at firstname.lastname@example.org!
The content on this website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.