What guide dogs are and what they are not
You are probably aware of guide dogs successfully assisting blind people around the streets, on the subway and just about anywhere. It really takes personal experience with a guide dog to understand just how much of a loving companion and irreplaceable mobility assistance they can be.
The trained guide dogs are used as mobility tools for people with poor vision or total vision loss. They help their people get around safely in crowded places, on the streets or anywhere. They can also be trained to locate certain objects with commands like: “elevator”, “door” or “chair” and assist their owner to get to them.
With time, the guide dogs can be trained to get to some places where the owner goes often, such as the grocery store, a bus stop, etc.
What we don’t really understand about guide dogs
Even though they are called “guide” dogs, these dogs do not lead the blind person, but rather help them avoid obstacles and move from one place to another safely. So, it is the person who directs the dog and not the other way around. It cannot actually help a person who has no orientation and mobility travel skills find the right way around.
Another misconception is that the guide dogs know when it is safe to cross a street. Dogs can’t tell whether the light is green or red, so it is the person who chooses when it is safe to cross the street. But still, guide dogs are trained to try to stop their owners in case a car gets dangerously close.
So, will you be OK with a guide dog?
If you want a guide dog, you need to go to the specialized guide dog schools where a dog will be assigned, and you will be trained on how to use the dog as a guide dog as well as how to take care of it. Only after you can demonstrate that you can successfully and safely travel and move around, cross streets, find certain destinations and cope when getting lost with a cane, a dog can be given to you.
The truth is guide dogs are not the perfect solution for everybody. There are two important factors to keep in mind before getting a guide dog, and they are:
- Like other pets, the guide dog needs to be fed properly, groomed, relieved, and given proper affection and exercise on a daily basis
- A trained guide dog will lose its mobility task skills if it is not used on a daily basis.
Other resources for finding the best guide dog for you and for living with it:
The National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU) provides assistance and is a forum for people who are interested getting a guide dog, or already using a guide.
Guide Dog Users, Inc. is an international organization dedicated to promoting, supporting, public education, and all other aspects of training, using and living with guide dogs.