There’s a special holiday coming up. April 27th is International Guide Dogs Day! Guide dogs definitely deserve the recognition: these loyal, hard-working pooches have changed the lives of millions of people! A local vet discusses these very good boys below.
The first guide dog training schools were built duringWorld War I, in Germany. However, Man’s Best Friend has been working as a guide dog much longer than that. A piece of Italian art from 79 CE depicts a blind man being led by a dog! More recently, guide dogs were mentioned in poetry by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and also in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
The pups most commonly trained as guide dogs are Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Labradors, and Standard Poodles. Recently, there has also been an uptick in guide dogs that are mixes of these breeds, such as the Goldador and Labradoodle.
Guide dogs provide invaluable support and assistance. One of their most crucial duties is helping their owners navigate busy streets and stores. They also assist with many small tasks. Overall, they help their humans live independently, which reduces their stress and anxiety and improves their overall happiness and well-being.
Guide dogs are protected by law in many places around the world. Here in the US, they are covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act, and also by the Fair Housing Act. Fido is by law allowed anywhere his humans can go, with the only exceptions being certain sterile environments, such as laboratories and some hospital wards. Canada has very similar laws, as do many other places, including the UK, Mexico, Australia, and South America.
Guide, Service Or Therapy Dog?
Many people get confused about the distinctions between guide, service, and therapy dogs. Service dogs are officially defined by the ADA as animals that have been ‘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, as there are also several other types of service dogs. Therapy dogs help people emotionally, providing comfort and cuddles to those experiencing stress, depression, anxiety, or PTSD. They are not under the same protections. That said, the same rule of thumb applies to any working dog. You should never approach, pet, or interact with them. Let Fido work! The only exception is if a dog approaches you: some service dogs are trained to get help for their owners in emergencies.
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