They say that a dog’s a man’s best friend, but that’s not all. Dogs should be held near our hearts because they can guide us and others in other ways too; one great example of this can be found in service dogs. Service dogs are dogs that are specifically trained to help their owners (who may be physically or mentally disabled) to navigate their everyday life. Service dogs are well known and well respected across the country for their help. Today, we’ll be focusing on one specific type of service dog: those who help their visually impaired owners, also known as guide dogs. Guide dogs are quite literally the eyes of their handlers, and undergo a highly specialized training in order to help their handler. According to the “Support Dog Certification” website, these dogs are known for:
- High intelligence
- Eagerness to learn (even as a puppy)
- Keen to please and be friendly to others
- Remaining focused when faced with lots of stimuli
- Not being fearful or aggressive
During the beginning stages of training, the dogs (or puppies) build a sense of trust with their trainers and learn basic obedience rules, such as the “sit, stand, lie down” commands. After this, the trainer begins teaching the basic specific rules needed for becoming a guide dog, such as stopping at curbs, stopping for traffic, and making turns or avoiding obstacles on an actual road. In addition to this, the dogs may also encounter purposeful distractions, and are trained to avoid such distractions.
Entering the intermediate stage, the dog gains more sidewalk and “real life” experience; this includes learning where to walk when on an open road (all the way to the left!). Another special step is also taught, called “intelligent disobedience;” in such cases, the dog will refuse to follow their owner’s instructions if there is imminent danger in front of them. For instance, if there is a construction zone in the way of the owner but the owner commands the dog to walk, the dog will purposely disobey the command in order to get his owner to safety.
In the advanced stage, the dogs are put in very complex situations, such as a busy road and sidewalk, multiple lanes, and both auditory and visual distractions. Once the dog passes their health examinations and routine tests, they are finally able to match up with an owner.
We truly owe a lot to our canine friends, as they are willing to put their entire lives into making sure their owners are safe. This week, make sure to send love to any service pets you know with a special surprise, and don’t forget to thank the people who are responsible for training them in the first place!