Although dogs make wonderful pets, lap companions that provide love and friendship, there are some dogs bred to offer much more. A great example is the guide dog that undergoes significant training so he can provide assistance to people who are visually impaired or completely blind.
As a result, the owner has the opportunity to enjoy life by going places and regaining independency and mobility. Without the services of a guide dog, for most people this would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.
As you can imagine, guide dog training is specialized and something that takes years before a dog could become certified and ready to work in this capacity.
Because the individual would depend so heavily on his dog and the dog’s ability, not only is intense guide dog training mandatory but also the right breed or type of dog showing all the right traits would be chosen.
Although there are many different types of dogs that work in this field, one of the top choices is the Labrador Retriever because this particular dog is highly intelligent, loyal to a fault, gentle but also strong, and protective.
Schooling for a Guide Dog
For the person that trains guide dogs, very specific requirements must be met. As mentioned, these dogs complete a long training process after which time they are certified with the state in which they were trained but to reach that point, instructors have to know the proper way to train.
Keep in mind that once a guide dog has been placed, he and the owner grow close but there are rare occasions when a guide dog and owner simply do not mesh at which time a different guide dog would be provided.
There are even rarer incidences when a trained guide dog is placed but for some reason does not perform duties properly or up to standard. If this were ever to happen, the organization would find the dog a loving home where he would spend his life as a standard pet.
Qualifications for the instructor providing guide dog training include a minimum of three years working under a licensed instructor. Throughout the individual’s training, he or she would be taught according to the state’s criteria.
At the completion of the program, potential trainers would be required to take several examinations prior to being licensed as a trainer. Obviously, the ideal candidate to offer guide dog training would not only have a state license but also be someone who loves and respects animals, an individual interested in helping people with visual problems, and someone committed to providing the best dogs to help the visually impaired community.
Responsibilities of a Guide Dog
After going through guide dog training, the animal would have an array of skills, all focused on being the eyes of his owner. The following are some of the primary responsibilities expected of a trained guide dog although these animals undergo exceptional training that would allow them to do more.
Guide the owner on a direct path while not paying attention to numerous distractions such as people, animals, noise, smells, and more
Stop at all curbs and stairways without moving forward until the owner provides the appropriate command
Guide at a pace comfortable to his owner while walking on the left side and slightly in front
Assist the owner in getting on and off trains, subways, buses, or in and out of taxis
Follow commands for turning either left or right, forward, up, down, stop, and start
Identify any obstacles that would present a challenge to his owner such as low hanging signs or narrow passageways
Guide the owner’s hand to buttons in an elevator
Lie down quietly whenever the owner were sitting
Overall, obey verbal commands given
In addition to all the above, once a dog has completed guide dog training he would have a keen ability of disobeying the owner’s command if there were impending danger.
Known as “selective disobedience”, the dog would always put his master’s safety first, even over a command. The ability for this type of dog to distinguish between obedience and making a rational decision pertaining to the person’s safety is simply remarkable. For this reason, some breeds do better because they have this character trait in their genetic makeup.
One of the most important situations would involve getting a person across a busy street. With guide dog training, the canine would stop at the curb. The owner would listen to the sound of traffic coupled with the dog using his perception, followed by a command being given to move forward.
However, guide dogs have no way of telling if a stoplight is green, yellow, or red so the primary responsibility in a situation such as this would fall on the owner but if the command to go forward were given but the dog saw an oncoming car, “selective disobedience” would occur. When safe and on the other side, the dog would again stop at the curb to wait for the appropriate command to be given.
A very special bond develops between a dog that completes all requirements associated with guide dog training and a visually impaired individual. Together, they build a relationship of trust and respect. The dog trusts his master for food, shelter, veterinarian care, grooming, and love while the person depends on the dog to be his eyes.