According to TheSeeingEye.org, the first seeing-eye guide dog school in America, The Seeing Eye, first came to be on January 29th, 1929 and is believed to be the oldest guide dog school to exist. It is because of Morris Frank that seeing-eye guide dogs and this school came to be.
Frank, frustrated with his own mobility issues due to blindness , reached out to Dorothy Harrison Eustis for help with training dogs. Frank traveled to Switzerland and completed training there. After Frank returned, on June 11, 1928, he showed America what his dog was capable of doing by helping him navigate a busy street.
First, a guide dog needs to be suited to a handler. There can be many factors considered for pairing, including a person’s lifestyle, habits, living arrangements, and activity leve. Once a dog has been chosen, a strong bond must be formed between the person and the dog.
Many hours of training go into the relationship. Many organizations assist in forming the bond between the handler and dog in an indoor environment. They must get to know one another and become as close as possible as they will depend on one another for the rest of the dog’s life.
Many breeds are considered, but the most common seeing-eye dogs include German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers.
Training a dog begins far before a person is chosen. Training and socialization begin as young as 8 weeks old. Specific people are chosen to raise a puppy to ensure proper socialization and obedience are taught prior to additional training. Once a dog reaches one-year-old, he is sent back to the organization to begin guide training with professional trainers. This training generally lasts several months at a minimum.
Keep in mind, a guide dog doesn’t just provide his best friend with guidance, but also helps them understand if there are any unsafe situations ahead.
He or she is trained to search for hazards and dangerous paths ahead. The dog and the owner must fully trust one another for this relationship to work.
It’s important not to pet a guide dog while he or she is in a harness.
We know it’s tempting, however, the dog should be considered as ‘working’ and should not be bothered. This could distract the dog from his duty to his handler and their overall safety. It is important to always give all seeing-eye guide dogs their space while at work. This will allow them to do their job and keep their owner safe.
As you go about your day today, consider taking some time to remember and celebrate the anniversary of how seeing-eye guide dogs came to be in America and the amazing work they do daily!