Guide dog

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Labrador Retriever guide dogs resting.
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Guide dog training.

Guide dogs or seeing eye dogs are assistance dogs especially trained to lead blind or visually impaired people around obstacles.

These dogs spend their early lives in foster homes where they are socialized through exposure to loving attention, and taught rudimentary skills through obedience training. Once potential guide dogs reach a certain age, they then begin their schooling as assistance animals before being matched with compatible human partners.

These matches are cemented through a 30-day training course, wherein the human half of the team learns to control the dog and interpret its signals. Very few visually impaired people go through this training, and these candidates must already have fully developed orientation and mobility skills before they do.

Dogs are partially color blind and so guide dogs cannot see colors the way people do, nor are they able to interpret street signs. The human half of the guide dog team does the leading, based upon skills acquired through previous mobility training.

In several countries, guide dogs are exempt from regulations against the presence of animals in places such as restaurants and public transportation.

Schooling

The first guide dog training schools were established in Germany during the First World War, to enhance the mobility of returning veterans who were blinded in combat. The United States followed suit in 1929 with the Seeing Eye in Morristown, New Jersey. This school was followed, two years later, by the British Guide Dog Association.

Early on, trainers recognized which breeds produced dogs with the most appropriate temperaments so that, now, Golden Retrievers, Labradors and German Shepherd Dogs, are more likely than dogs of other breeds to be chosen, although by no means does this indicate that only these four are appropriate (for example, Boxers are also used but as they have a long adolescence they are less common.) The preferred breed is a Golden Retriever / Labrador cross because both breeds are known for their intelligence, responsiveness to obedience, and early maturation.

Guide dog puppies are generally in the care of "puppy walkers" - volunteers who adopt the puppy from several weeks of age until 10-14 months. After this stage, a successful puppy will go into formal training for another year, before being placed as a working dog for approximately 6 years.

See also

External links

he:כלבי נחיה ja:盲導犬 no:førerhund

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