How do guide dogs work?

If you have ever seen a guide dog helping a blind or partially sighted person, you probably find yourself dumbfounded at just how remarkable they are. The skills, behaviour and ability to communicate with the owner make for quite an unbelievable thing to witness.

In this post, we are going to look at guide dogs in more detail. We will see what is involved with the training and also what they can and cannot do.

All About The Right Dog

Unfortunately, not every dog is born to be a guide dog. A guide dog needs to possess a great range of core traits, and these are essential should they wish to be considered for training. 

The first requirement is, of course, high levels of intelligence. This intelligence needs to be paired with a keenness to please, ability to focus and a willingness to learn. Some dogs are unfortunately easily distracted by outside stimulus too easily, and this takes them out of the running.

The Early Years

When the pup is vaccinated and ready, it will be paired with its dog walking partner. The dog walking partner who is a specialist volunteer that will take care of the puppy for the first year of its life. The walking partner will also aid the dog in its basic training and assess the puppy for its future role. A good diet is also introduced in the early years as a proper diet is fundamental in the lives of all working dogs.

By the end of a year living at home with a walking partner, the puppy should respond to the sit and stay command with complete reliability. Once the pup has reached one year old, it will return to the guide dog training centre where the real training begins.

Over the next twelve months, the one-year-old dog will go through intensive training and assessments before they are ready to find their forever homes. 

When the dog reaches its second year, its skills advance even further. The dogs will learn about obstacles, kerbs and waiting for a command to turn or cross. Guide dogs are also taught toileting on command.  

Eventually, the complicated procedure of pairing the dog with its forever home can take place. While this may seem like a simple task, it is a rather complicated one. Considerations of height, walking stride, and even lifestyle are taken into account

What Can The Do-And Not Do?

It is blatantly obvious that guide dogs are remarkably clever; they do, however, have limitations. Below are a few of the things guide dogs can do:

  • Leading the handler in a straight line and stop for obstacles.
  • Stop the handler to indicate an obstacle in front of them.
  • Stopping the handler to warn them of potential dangers. 
  • Guide dogs know the harness they wear indicates work mode. When the harness is off, they can relax.

There is often a misunderstanding when it comes to the limits of guide dogs. A guide dog cannot read traffic signals or pick a route for their handler. Guide dogs work under the instruction of the handlers.  

 

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