Dog Guides for the Blind
are among a larger class of working animals commonly known as
service or assistance animals. These dogs perform a variety of
functions for people with disabilities, including retrieving objects,
pulling wheelchairs, and alerting deaf people to certain sounds.
At least 9 million Americans live with significant physical and
sensory impairments, but there are only 10,000-12,000 assistance
dogs at work, of which 8,000 are dog guides.
known evidence of the use of a dog as a guide for person who was
blind goes back to ancient Rome. On the wall of a house in Pompeii
which was buried in volcanic ash in the year 79 A.D. there is
a painting which depicts a woman and her maid in the market place
being approached by what seems to be a blind man with a staff
and being apparently led by a small dog which, in the painting,
is turning to his master as if asking for instructions.
many other references in art and literature since then, the first
systematic training and use of dog guides for the blind occurred
in Germany after World War I to assist the many veterans who were
visually impaired as a result of war injuries. While the earliest
formal training of dog guides in the United States dates back
70 years, widespread training has only occurred during the last
fifteen major guide dog training facilities operate in the United
States. Each is administered independently. Guide dog training
techniques are similar across schools, but policies, such as applicant
requirements and types of dogs used, vary.
most commonly used as dog guides are Labrador Retrievers, Golden
Retrievers and German Shepherd Dogs. Approximately 60 to 70% of
all working guides in the U.S. are Labradors. Other breeds, such
as Boxers, Flat and Curly Coated Retrievers, Border Collies, Huskies,
Doberman Pinchers, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Australian Shepherds,
German Short-Haired Pointers, Dalmatians, and even Standard Poodles
are occasionally used by some programs.
as dog guides must be intelligent, willing workers, large enough
to comfortably guide in harness and small enough to be easily
controlled and fit comfortably under restaurant tables and on
buses and other forms of public transit. Labs, Goldens and Shepherds
are most popular as guides due to their temperament, intelligence,
versatility, size and availability. Additionally, these three
breeds are popular in the United States and obtaining them for
training or supplementing breeding stock has proved easier than
obtaining less common, but perhaps equally suitable breeds.
families raise the puppies, training them in basic dog obedience
and stressing lots of socialization and good manners. The dogs
go back for their formal training when they're about one and one-half
years old, although they can go back as young as one year old.
a guide dog is partnered with a blind person, the individual generally
attends a dog guide training center. This training is several
weeks long and during this time the blind person will usually
live on site at the dog training facility. A few smaller programs
conduct "in home" training, in which an instructor brings a trained
dog to the student and trains the team in their own home area.
This is the most rapidly growing area of dog guide training, with
three new home training programs started since 1990. Most of these
programs are small 1-2 trainer operations and do not ever plan
to serve as many people as the residential programs can. All home
training programs generally limit their service to their own region
of the country, serving those applicants in their own and neighboring
states. There are, in addition to residential training schools
and home training programs, a few private trainers of dog guides
and a few blind people who train their own guides. >
List of U.S.
Dog Guide Schools
Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation,
P. O. Box 142
Bloomfield, CT 06002
Guide Dog Foundation
for the Blind, Inc.
371 East Jericho Turnpike
Smithtown, NY 11787-2976
Guide Dogs for the
P. O. Box 151200
San Rafael, CA 94915-1200
Guiding Eyes for the
611 Granite Springs Road
Yorktown Heights, NY 10598
Leader Dogs for the
1039 South Rochester Road
Rochester, MI 48307-3115
Pilot Dogs, Inc.
625 W. Town St.
Columbus, OH 43215-4496
The Seeing Eye, Inc.
P. O. Box 375
Morristown, NJ 07963-0375