What Breeds are Best for Helping the Blind?
Service dogs can come in all shapes and sizes depending on what specific needs they are required for; however, seeing-eye dogs tend to be on the larger side of medium-sized dogs. This is due to the fact that service dogs for the blind need to be large enough to press against their owner’s legs to nudge them in a direction or stop them from walking into something. Another consideration for service dogs for the blind is their intelligence and personality traits. Due to these aspects, most seeing-eye dogs tend to be Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, or Labradoodles.
Additional considerations for service dogs are their social skills and how well they deal with busy places, loud noises, and the presence of other animals. Service dogs are expected to remain calm and perform their duties regardless of what’s going on around them. Because of this, they need to have a gentle disposition and an ability to remain focused and ignore extraneous stimuli. They should also be healthy breeds with a pedigree of healthy parentage because the training they require is expensive and time-consuming.
The health of a service dog is essential as an unhealthy dog could not perform its tasks and the cost of training would mean that an untimely death of the animal would be extremely expensive for the owner. Service dogs can be very costly to purchase due to the intensive nature of their training and the stringent requirements of their personality and healthy history.
Dog Guides for People with Vision Loss
Although the dogs can be trained to navigate various obstacles, they are partially (red––green) color blind and are not capable of interpreting street signs. The human half of the guide dog team does the directing, based upon skills acquired through previous mobility training. The handler might be likened to an aircraft’s navigator, who must know how to get from one place to another, and the dog is the pilot, who gets them there safely.
More and more families with children who are blind or visually impaired are coming to 4 Paws to get a service dog for their child who typically has other issues as well. What we can provide to a child with a visual impairment is a dog trained in facilitated guide work as well as any other skills the child may need. With facilitated guide work, the child learns to walk with a dog using a guide dog harness, using the dog to navigate their environment. However rather than the child acting as the navigator, the adult caregiver in the child’s life plays that role. By providing the child with the ability to walk using the dog rather than holding a parents hand we are allowing the child to feel a new level of independence.