Have you ever come across a service dog with its owner? The way that dogs guide and interact with their humans is incredible. Seeing eye dogs can change lives; they can make it easier for blind people to gain independence, go out into the world, and do everything that they want to do.
Although seeing eye dogs have been used to help humans since medieval times, they have only been guaranteed access to public places since 1990. Can you believe that? Before 1990, guide dogs weren’t always allowed in restaurants, hotels, or airplanes. This meant that their owners might not be able to enter these places either. Now, service dogs are more common and more accepted. After all, they are highly trained and well-behaved. They’re also invaluable to their owners.
According to The Seeing Eye, working dogs must be bred and cared for properly. They have to be socialized appropriately and trained by experts. Once they’re trained, the animals are matched with an owner. They mainly serve as mobility aids, but they’re also a beloved member of the family.
Service Dog Puppies
Many organizations that provide service dogs to people have their own breeding programs. Guide Dogs of America selectively breeds dogs that have the ideal personalities to be working dogs. Have you ever noticed how calm service dogs are? Part of that temperament comes from good breeding. The ability to stay composed in a variety of situations is also trained into these dogs at an early age.
Puppies start training in the first few months of life. Establishing a strong bond with humans is important. Volunteers and foster parents will do certain activities to encourage bonding. They’ll massage the puppies and explore their world together. By doing this, they help the pups develop confidence and a positive association with the world around them.
Early training is fairly basic. Between six weeks and four months, a dog learns to walk on a lead. The puppy will learn obedience, manners, and socialization. What does socialization entail? The dog will be exposed to a variety of situations. Maybe it will be encouraged to sit quietly while children play around it. The volunteer or trainer will bring the dog to many public places to get the dog used to being out and about.
During the first few months, volunteers may bring the dogs with them wherever they go. This enhances the socialization process. The dogs will get used to being around new people. They’ll also become accustomed to being in new environments.
Official Guide Dog Training
Seeing eye dog training continues until the dog is about 14 to 16 months old. At this point, the dog will be cleared to begin official training. How does guide dog training work? An instructor who specializes in this type of training will teach the dogs the skills that they need to work with blind or partially sighted people.
These skills involve recognizing changes in elevation that might trip up their owners. The dogs will also learn how to locate things like seats, elevators, and exits. They’ll be trained to steer their humans around dangers and obstacles.
How A Service Dog Interacts with Its Owner
The process of matching a dog with its owner begins when the dog is close to two years old. You might think that it’s easy to find the perfect dog for a person in need. After all, these dogs are impeccably trained. They have lots of skills to help people with disabilities. However, the process of matching a dog with a handler is complex. The dog may know what to do, but the human also needs to learn some skills.
When blind people want a service dog, they are first screened for eligibility. The individuals need to know how to walk with a cane. Blind people also need to know how to read traffic. Service dogs can’t understand traffic signals. It’s up to the handler to listen for sounds that tell them it’s safe to cross the road.
Playing matchmaker for a seeing eye dog is similar to finding a date online. Many factors are taken into consideration when joining a dog and a handler. The dog must enjoy walking at the handler’s pace. Some owners need the dog to pull them forcefully when changing direction. Others require more gentle guidance. Some dogs prefer working in specific environments, like busy cities or quiet suburbs.
After a dog is selected, the handler has to undergo training to learn how to interact with the animal. The individual also needs to learn service dog etiquette. Have you ever been told not to pet a working animal? Handlers have to know how to talk to the public about interacting with their partner.
A Typical Day for A Seeing Eye Dog
Seeing eye dogs are bred for their desire to work. They need to have consistent opportunities to use the skills that they’ve been trained to practice. If they don’t work regularly, they’ll lose some of their abilities.
During the work day, the dog won’t be playing games or romping around. It’s important for the animal to be focused. These dogs mainly help blind people navigate without a cane. The dog will escort the owner around obstacles, indicate when there are steps or curbs, and help the individual get in elevators and taxis.
How do they know where to go? They are trained to look out for safety issues. They also follow specific commands. They must even learn when the owner’s command will put them in danger. For example, they won’t cross the street if a car is coming, even if they have been told to do so.
At home, the dogs provide companionship. They make life less lonely for visually impaired people. They may be able to help locate objects around the house or retrieve items for the owner. The dog can be trained to follow commands like “Find the chair,” or “Find the bag.”
Downtime in The Life of a Working Dog
The life of a service dog isn’t all work and no play. Guide dogs develop better temperaments when they’re allowed to do the things that dogs like to do, like goof around, fetch toys, and chase balls. These types of dogs still have a chance to be themselves when they’re not working. During their downtime, they’re just like any other family pet. However, they are still expected to be obedient and well-mannered.
Partners for Life
When a dog and a handler click, they may become partners for life. Although the dogs love to work, they also become part of the owners’ family. When they get home, they may play and snuggle together. Dogs that help the blind are often allowed to play with other animals. However, they may be more interested in bonding with humans. They can truly be a man’s best friend.