Service Animals: Guide Dogs

One of the most well known types of service animal is a guide dog for people who can’t see or can’t see well. Learn what all these furry friends have to do in order to be someone’s eyes.

In a past blog, I briefly mentioned the intense training that goes into a puppy becoming a service dog . Now over several blog posts, I’ll be delving into the specifics of what different types of service animals do, and how they help their humans.

Let’s start with guide dogs. The very first service animal that I saw was a yellow Labrador guide dog. I was very young, so I was mostly confused as to why I couldn’t pet the pretty doggy. It wasn’t until later on that I learned why it is important to not distract the canine, and what a big job it had. Guide dogs are pooches that assist blind and visually impaired people. These canines are trained to navigate common obstacles such as curbs, other people, doors, etc. Some standard skills are:

  • Leading a person in a straight line from Point A to Point B
  • Stopping for all changes in elevation (think curbs or stairs)
  • Pausing for overhead obstacles (tree branches or low hanging lights)

In addition, guide dogs must be trained in “intelligence disobedience.” This means that if the animal is given an unsafe command, it knows to ignore the command. A great example of this is to refuse to step onto the street when there is oncoming traffic. One important thing to note, however, is that canines are red-green colorblind. This means that they cannot read traffic signals.

Finally, these dogs must also have impeccable manners and great social skills, as they are allowed in public buildings such as restaurants and grocery stores with their humans.

Although I now understand the importance of not distracting a service animal, I am still slightly disappointed when I see one and cannot pet it.

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