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Watch Now - Pip, A Short Animated Film

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The Power of Pawseverance: Becoming a Guide Dog like Pip

Have you ever wanted to learn more about Guide Dogs? Guide dogs mean so much to the blind community. They help the visually impaired get around freely and confidently, see their loved ones more often, and experience life to the fullest. Plus, they’re smart, caring, loyal, and protective to a fault—they’re four-legged superheroes! See our hero Pip go through this process and adopt your own My Guide Dog today! 

Want to learn a little more about Guide Dogs? Read on!

Can any dog become a guide dog?

Early on, German Shepherds were the most utilized breed for service positions, but today many breeds fill these spots. Additional guide dog breeds include Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Labrador Retrievers, Poodles and Labradoodles. These last two are primarily used for people who are allergic to dogs. All of these breeds are used because they have the necessary intelligence, temperament and health qualities to be a successful dog guide. Size is also important because the height of the dog at the shoulder, plus the length of the harness, must fit comfortably with the height of the handler. The most popular service dog breed today is the Labrador Retriever due to its size range, short hair coat, and mild temperament. Although there is no scientific proof that the color of a Labrador affects its skills and traits, in general, guide dog breeders find that chocolate and fox-red Labradors tend to have a higher energy level than their black and yellow counterparts. 

How long does it take to train a guide dog?

Training a guide dog can take anywhere from 18 months to up to two years. In its first year, the guide dog will live with a puppy raiser who has volunteered to raise them, house train them and teach them obedience. Once ready, the dog will then participate in professional training for around four to six months. After around 18 months, the guide dog will then meet its intended owner and the pair will continue training together.

What skills does a guide dog learn?

Guide dogs are proficient in leading a human safely to a designated location. This entails watching for hazards from above and below - low hanging tree limbs or power lines, curbs, stairs, potholes, etc. In addition to heeding commands, guide dogs learn how to reason. If the handler issues a command to cross a street as traffic approaches, the dog learns to disobey. This ability is called intelligent disobedience and is critical to the safety of both humans and dogs. Guide dogs also learn to ignore distractions that interfere with their duties, meaning that they have the willpower not to abandon their owners in pursuit of a stray ball or squirrel crossing their path. It’s important to keep in mind that while guide dogs are highly intelligent, they cannot read traffic signals or determine the route to a new destination. Ultimately, their handlers are always in control.

How expensive is it to train guide dogs?

One guide dog takes about two years to train and costs a total of $45,000 to $60,000, covering everything from boarding a dog to extensive drilling by professional trainers in serving the needs of the blind and visually impaired to a weeklong period acclimating the dog to the recipient. Guide dogs who make it through the program are provided free to people who need them. Guide dog training schools rely on donations from groups and individuals to finance day-to-day operations.

How do people get paired with a guide dog?

Guide dogs are very carefully paired with their handlers. Everything from a person’s lifestyle, hobbies, activity level, family, living arrangements, and other pets go into the pairing process when a person applies for a guide dog through a nonprofit organization.

Can I pet a guide dog if I see one on the street?

While in their harnesses, guide dogs are working, and you should not pet them. Although they are friendly and adorable, resist your urge to pet guide dogs when you see them working in their harness.

What happens when a guide dog retires?

A guide dog's average working life is six to seven years and they normally retire at about 10 or 11 years old, depending on their health and the amount of work they need to do. A retired guide dog can stay with its owner, as long as they can be well taken care of, but a new home can also be nominated. Beyond this, the dog is offered to those people who had been involved in its initial training and development, before going through the charity or nonprofit’s rehousing system. The owner is then put on a priority list for a new guide dog. A blind person could need six or seven dogs in their lifetime. 

How many guide dogs are there in the United States?

Although there are no precise numbers available, it is estimated that there are approximately 10,000 guide dog teams currently working in the United States. Another frequently cited statistic is that only about 2%-5% of all people who are blind and visually impaired work with guide dogs.

If you read all that information you MUST get yourself a My Guide Dog! You can adopt one with us today! 100% of profits are going to retinal research organizations working to prevent and cure visual impairment.

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