International Guide Dog Day

Today is International Guide Dog Day! To all guide and other assistance dogs out there, thank you for your service and life-changing work!
Guide or seeing-eye dogs are trained service animals that provide invaluable assistance to the blind and visually impaired. For example, they are trained to avoid obstacles, signal changes in elevation, retrieve dropped objects, and locate objects on command. These are just some of the many tasks a guide dog may do for his or her handler. There are formal training facilities, such as the Guide Dogs for the Blind, just for this purpose. Keep in mind that the handler and dog comprise a team. Be courteous and don’t distract the dog or the handler!

Photo courtesy of Southeastern Guide Dogs

There are many types of service dogs in addition to guide dogs. These include hearing, psychiatric, medical assistance, and mobility assistance. Here are some of the numerous tasks these marvelous animals are trained to do.

Photo courtesy of the American Kennel Club

Remember that the Americans with Disabilities Act distinguishes between service or assistance dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support dogs. They are not the same thing, and only service dogs are protected by the ADA. If you have questions, check out these FAQs and handy infographic:

Infographic courtesy of Care2

Want to know more about guide dogs and how amazing they are? Check out Growing Up Guide Pup (website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel) and Zoe the Seeing Eye Dog!

Here are a few stories describing the astonishingly cool things that guide dog teams have accomplished! Guide dogs are true heroes!

Dog Spotlight: Seeing Eye Anniversary

On January 29, 1929, Morris Frank founded The Seeing Eye, the oldest guide dog school in the United States. This school is the founding member of the US Council of Guide Dog School as well as a fully accredited member of the International Guide Dog Federation. Today we celebrate the anniversary of the school’s founding and the importance of guide dogs everywhere (and by extension, service dogs in general).

What is a guide dog, or more generally a service animal? The Americans with Disabilities Act defines it as: any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Service animals are not the same as therapy animals or emotional support animals. Only service animals are protected by the ADA.

You may see service animals (dogs are the most common) working with their handlers. Remember that these dogs are working and must concentrate on what they need to do on behalf of their handlers. Don’t distract them. I know it’s tempting to want to pet such a well-behaved dog but be considerate. Some handlers are OK with people petting their dogs if their permission is asked for first; other handlers will decline and that’s fine too. Here are some additional etiquette guidelines as well as a few things that handlers want you to know.

If you’d like to learn more about service dogs, especially those assisting the blind, check out Growing Up Guide Pup and Zoe the Seeing Eye Dog.

One more thing to note: FAKE service dogs. Sometimes people try to pass off their pets, including emotional support animals, as service dogs so they can take their pet anywhere with them, enable their pet to fly for free, and avoid having to pay a pet deposit. This is a serious issue for service dogs and their handlers. Untrained pets in public areas, like planes and restaurants, can pose a big risk to those around them. Being able to spot a fake service dog and differentiate such from legitimate service animals is important. Most importantly, DO NOT misrepresent pets as service dogs. Don’t be that person. It’s not cool. Moreover, your actions can have significant consequences for those around you, especially working service dogs and their handlers.