Sunday, January 29 is National Seeing Eye Dog Day. In honor of all the hard working seeing eye dogs out there, we thought we’d share some background on what makes these furry friends so remarkable.
Seeing eye dogs are special pups trained to assist their visually impaired or blind owners with safely navigating the world. Today, Labs, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds are the top three breeds for seeing eye dogs, mostly due to their calm, intelligent and pleasing nature. Guide dogs are allowed to accompany their owner wherever life may take them, whether it’s at work, at a mall or even on an airplane. Most guide dogs are trained to differentiate between “work” and “play” time through wearing their work harness. When a dog is out with their owner in public, it’s important to not disturb the dog and treat it like a pet; your attention can confuse and distract the dog away from their very important job of ensuring their owner is safe. However, when guide dogs are at home with their owner, they get to hang their harness for the day and enjoy being a normal dog with lots of attention, praise and treats.
Owners are specially matched with their helpful furry friends and they undergo training with each other before venturing out into everyday life. But even before a guide dog meets their owner, they undergo extensive training as a puppy with a foster family and then at a specialized facility for 4-6 months to ensure they have what it takes to be a seeing eye dog. Most seeing eye dogs will work with their owner until 8-10 years of age, or sometimes longer, if the dog is still healthy.
Most training facilities and schools are nonprofits and therefore rely on donations to continue providing support to visually impaired people around the world. Find more information on how to make a donation in honor of all the hard working seeing eye dogs on National Seeing Eye Dog Day: http://www.guidedog.org/