A guide dog is a specially trained dog that assists individuals with visual or sight impairment. Guide dogs are trained to lead the individual around obstacles and to assist with navigation in daily tasks. Guide dogs are often seen wearing a special harness with a handle versus a leash. A guide dog may also wear a “vest” which indicates it is a guide dog for the blind.
Although guide dogs can be trained to navigate various obstacles, they must rely on their human owners to direct them because dogs are partially color blind and obviously are incapable of reading street signs. Therefore, the guide dog is part of a team. The owner of a guide dog must also receive special training. The owner receives mobility and other daily living skills through special training for the blind or visually impaired. Once accepted as a candidate for a guide dog, the owner then receives specific training on how to manage, care for and bond with the guide dog. The guide dog and human team also go through extensive training as a team to ensure the owner can utilize the dog and the dog will follow its owner’s direction.
Guide dogs are commonly referred to as “Seeing Eye Dogs”. However, a “Seeing Eye” Dog is a specific dog, trained by a specific training company.
It is important to remember that guide dogs and other service animals are working animals and are not pets. Guide dogs should never be petted, touched or fed unless authorized by the owner.