Since World War I, seeing eye/guide dogs have been increasing the mobility and freedom of blind and visually impaired people around the world. The first guides were trained in Germany, Switzerland, and the United States; however, there are now schools scattered around the globe that train seeing eye/guide dogs. Many locations have local families that raise the puppies, beginning their obedience and socialization early in life before returning to the school for their formal training where they learn the more detailed aspects of being a guide. The guides are trained to be aware of their surroundings including watching for overhangs, curbs, traffic, and general obstacles that have the potential to harm their blind partner. Various large breed dogs are utilized as guides including: German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Dobermans, and many other breeds. Guides often work for an average of 7 – 10 years depending on their health and continued ability to guide. While not every dog that is raised and trained to become a guide succeeds, many of the training facilities have waiting lists for families looking to adopt those that were not successful (due to health or complications that arose during training) as well as the guides that have retired from service. The bond that is commonly shared between guide and human is often the same shared by other working dog/human teams and is an excellent example of the devotion that our canine best friends exhibit during their lives with us as their human family.
For more information about seeing eye/guide dogs and how you can be involved in this life altering experience, please visit:
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Dr. George Stroberg, DVM and Staff