Guide dogs or service dogs are dogs trained to guide blind people in their normal means of travel and to assist and help them also within the home. Guide dogs know how to avoid obstacles, walk in a straight line at a measured pace with their owner, and even make some decisions in case of danger (there are some cases in which they deliberately disobey to avoid danger to their blind owner). All this without forgetting that dogs cannot distinguish some colors such as red and green – distinctive colors at traffic lights.
Ideal breeds to become guide dogs or service dogs
The Labrador is the most appropriate and most used breed to act as a guide. The reason is that it is a very calm and sociable dog. In particular, he adapts easily to any environment and situation. On the other hand, it can be controlled without problems. You just have to watch that he does not get too fat because he is very gluttonous. In addition to the Labrador, the Golden Retriever and the German Shepherd are used as service dogs too.
Normally, purebred dogs are chosen. During the training time, the behavior of each of the specimens is observed. If it is perceived that someone does not enjoy their work or is too sensitive to noise, bustle, or the confluence of many people, for example, then they are withdrawn from training and given to a family for adoption.
The life of guide dogs
Guide dogs do not begin their training period until they have reached the first year of life.
The welcoming family that takes care of the dogs in their first year of life is provided with everything necessary for their care, such as feed.
Once the animal has been raised and cared for by a family, it goes to the training center. This change is delicate for both the dog and the members of the family (some of whom are children who have become fond of it), so it is tried not to do it drastically or suddenly but gradually and staggered. In this way, the family is allowed to visit the dog and even meet the future user when a blind applicant has been assigned.
The training of the service dog for blindness will last approximately two years. After a careful selection, a blind person is appointed who is also prepared to be able to handle and adapt to the dog.
After about ten years accompanying the blind, the dog can no longer serve as a guide. The blind person can choose to stay with it until its death or to give him back. The organization where the person took it will give it up for adoption to an animal-loving person or family to care for it until its last days.
How are guide dogs trained?
For the training of guide dogs, a good dose of affection, patience, and abundant positive reinforcements (caresses, pellets of feed, etc.) are used. If on any occasion, you have to use some negative reinforcement so that the dog in question knows that he has done something wrong, only a brief tug on the leash is used, accompanied by a “no”. It turns out to be more informative than negative reinforcement.
Physical and mental benefits that they bring to the blind
The benefits, both physical and mental, that these guide dogs bring are indisputable. The possibility of offering mutual affection is something that enriches the emotional life of people with disabilities and increases the satisfaction of the little animal, who feels loved, appreciated, pampered, and useful for his love.
This is valid not only in the case of blindness; The benefits they bring to children with autism or any other disability are indisputable.
Rights of blind people who are accompanied by their guide dog
There is legislation in this regard. No establishment or means of transport can deny that the blind person is accompanied by their dog. If you do, you face severe penalties.
On the other hand, people who talk to the blind man should not distract the dog or manipulate his leash when he is doing “his job.” If you also bring a dog, they should not get too close, since dogs usually greet each other effusively and an accident can be caused. These rules are more common sense and polite.