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5 Interesting Facts About Seeing Eye Guide Dogs

It’s Seeing Eye Guide Dog Day

January 29th is Seeing Eye Guide Dog Day. This day commemorates all the guide dogs out there, and the incorporation of the The Seeing Eye (the first guide-dog training school in the US). Most believe the term “seeing-eye guide dog” came along when The Seeing Eye company started graduating their dogs. This is because, naturally, they would call them Seeing Eye guide dogs.  The term kind of stuck, but most companies who train these animals just stick to “guide dog”.  

Now, there are several companies throughout the United States that train these awesome animals. No one can deny the invaluable service these dogs provide their owners, regardless of the term used. The goal of a guide dog is to provide their owners with peace of mind, independence, and a mobility they might not otherwise have due to vision impairment or blindness.  

Facts About Training Guide Dogs 

Here are some things you may or may not know about guide dogs and their training:

  1. Their guide dog training doesn’t start until after they are 1 year old. Foster families or puppy raisers can receive new puppies once they are weened. These families are responsible for several things:
    • teach the puppies basic manners
    • teach basic obedience skills
    • socialize the puppies to many different types of environments
    • Reinforce friendliness and self-control.
  2. These dogs undergo strict medical evaluations before they begin formal training.  Every guide dog company I researched wants to make sure their dogs are in the best of health.  And that makes sense. If you are going to take the time to train a dog to be responsible for someone’s life, you want to make sure they will physically be able to do it. Not only that, you want it to live for as long as possible to do their job.  If a dog does not pass their physical exam, each company may have different policies. Mostly, one of three things could happen:
    • a loving family adopts them
    • they go back to their foster families
    • a dog finds a home at the guide dog company.
  3. A single handler does all the formal training – and it takes months. The biggest reason is for the dog to develop a bond with the handler; plus, it keeps the training consistent for the dog.  Some companies have a set training schedule, some are more based on the dog’s learning curve.

Once the dog has learned how to maneuver in the outside world, applicants that have passed the screening process for the company come to the facilities to train with the dogs. This allows the handler to show the new owner exactly how to work with their dog. During this time, the owner and dog also get time to form a unique bond together.

The ADA categorizes Seeing Eye Guide Dogs as a Service Animal because by definition they provide a service for their owners. As such, they can do the following:

  1. Airplanes and cruises must allow guide dogs to accompany their owner/handler. These guidelines help ensure compliance and safety:
    • The owner must have the dog at their feet, curled up, or placed on the floor.
    • Guide dogs are not allowed on exit rows
    • They may not have any part (like a tail) sticking in the aisle
    • An owner/handler cannot be charged additional fees related to their guide dog. Examples of additional fees include:
      • fees for the dog
      • any airport assistance required to make connections
      • any airport assistance required to visit relief stations.
  2. All places of business must allow a guide dog to accompany their owner/handler. The law states that:
    • a business cannot discriminate against people with a service animal
    • service animals must be able to accompany their owner anywhere the public is generally allowed. 
    • A business can only ask two questions to clarify if the animal is a service animal if it is not apparent:
      • Is your animal required due to a disability?
      • What work or task has your animal been trained to perform?

Reasons a Business May Exclude a Service Animal

There are only 2 reasons a business may exclude services animals:

  1. The animal is out of control and the handler cannot/does not regain control.
  2. The animal is not housebroken.

Please remember: when out in public these highly trained dogs are working. Be respectful, and ask the owner if it is OK for you to approach their dog if it is not apparent from their vest or harness.  Most vests or harnesses have a “do not touch” patch on them that will remind you 😉  If you are walking your dog and are going near a service animal, please keep your dog in control.  It is not fair to these animals and their owners if your dog instigates interaction with them.

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