There’s a special holiday around the corner. April 27th is International Guide Dogs Day! Guide dogs definitely deserve the recognition: these loyal, hard-working pups have helped change the lives of millions of people! A vet discusses guide dogs below.
The first schools for training guide dogs were built back in World War I, in Germany. However, Man’s Best Friend may have been working as a guide dog much longer than many people realize. In fact, Italian art from 79 CE depicted a blind man being led by a dog! More recently, Fido was mentioned in poetry by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Fido helps his humans live independently, which reduces their stress and anxiety, and improves their overall happiness and well-being. Guide dogs provide invaluable support and assistance in many different ways. One of their most crucial duties is helping their owners navigate busy streets and stores. They also assist with small tasks, such as fetching things.
The breeds most commonly trained as guide dogs are Golden Retrievers, Labradors, German Shepherds, and Standard Poodles. Recently, there has also been an uptick in guide dogs that are crosses of these breeds, such as the Goldador and Labradoodle.
Guide dogs are protected by law in many places. In the US, they are covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act, and also the Fair Housing Act. They are by law allowed anywhere their humans can go, with the only exceptions being certain sterile environments, such as laboratories and some hospital wards. Canadian laws are very similar, as are laws in many other places, including the UK, Mexico, Australia, and South America.
There’s a little confusion about the categories of guide, service, and therapy dogs. Service dogs are defined by the ADA as animals ‘trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.’ Therefore, all guide dogs are service dogs. However, not all service dogs are guide dogs: there are also several other types of service dogs. Therapy dogs help people emotionally, and are not under the same protections. That said, the same rule of thumb applies to any working dog. You should never approach them, pet them, or interact with them. Let Fido work! The only exception is if a dog approaches you: some pups are trained to get help when needed.
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