Guide dog

"Seeing eye dog" redirects here. For the 2010 album by the band Helmet, see Seeing Eye Dog. For the UK charity known as Guide Dogs, see The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.
A blind man is led by his guide dog in Brasília, Brazil
A blind woman learns to use her guide dog in a test environment

Guide dogs, (also known as service animals or assistance animals), are assistance dogs trained to lead blind and visually impaired people around obstacles.

Although the dogs can be trained to navigate various obstacles, lots of them are (red–green) color blind and are not capable of interpreting street signs. The human does the directing, based on 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.

In several countries, guide dogs, along with most service and hearing dogs, are exempt from regulations against the presence of animals in places such as restaurants and public transportation.


A blind man with his guide dog in Montreal, 1941.

References to service animals date at least as far back as the mid-16th century; the second line of the popular verse alphabet "A was an Archer" is most commonly "B was a Blind-man/Led by a dog".[1] In the 19th-century verse novel Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the title character remarks, "The blind man walks wherever the dog pulls / And so I answered."[2]

The first service animal training schools were established in Germany during World War I to enhance the mobility of returning veterans who were blinded in combat, but interest in service animals outside of Germany did not become widespread until Dorothy Harrison Eustis, an American dog breeder living in Switzerland, wrote a first-hand account about a service animal training school in Potsdam, Germany, that was published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1927. Earlier that same year, U.S. Sen. Thomas D. Schall of Minnesota was paired with a service animal imported from Germany,[3] but the service animal movement did not take hold in America until Nashville resident Morris Frank returned from Switzerland after being trained with one of Eustis's dogs, a female German shepherd named Buddy. Frank and Buddy embarked on a publicity tour to convince Americans of the abilities of service animals and the need to allow people with service animals access to public transportation, hotels, and other areas open to the public. In 1929, Eustis and Frank co-founded The Seeing Eye school in Nashville, Tennessee (relocated in 1931 to New Jersey).[4]

The first service animals in Great Britain were German shepherds. Four of these first were Flash, Judy, Meta, and Folly, who were handed over to their new owners, veterans blinded in World War I, on 6 October 1931 in Wallasey, Merseyside.[5] Judy's new owner was Musgrave Frankland.[6][7] In 1934, The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association in Great Britain began operation, although their first permanent trainer was a Russian military officer, Captain Nikolai Liakhoff, who moved to the UK in 1933.[7]


Important studies on the behavior and training methods of service animals were done in the 1920s and 1930s by Jakob von Uexküll and Emanuel Georg Sarris. They studied the richness of service animals and introduced advanced methods of training. There have also been important studies into the discrimination experienced by people that use service and assistance animals.[8][9]


Labrador Retriever guide dogs resting
A group of Labradoodle guide and assistance dogs

Guide dog breeds are chosen for temperament and trainability. Early on, trainers began to recognize which breeds produced dogs most appropriate for guide work; today, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and German Shepherds are most likely to be chosen by service animals facilities, although other breeds such as Standard Poodles, Collies, Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, and Vizslas may also be selected.

Crosses such as Golden Retriever/Labrador (which are popular due to both breeds' known intelligence, work ethic, and early maturation) and Labradoodles (Labrador/Poodles bred to provide dogs with less shedding for those with allergies to hair or dander) are also common.

The most popular breed used globally today is the Labrador Retriever. This breed has a good range of size, is easily kept due to its short coat, is generally healthy and has a gentle but willing temperament.[10]


A guide dog in Israel

Despite regulations or rules that deny access to animals in restaurants and other public places, in many countries, service animals are protected by law and therefore may accompany their handlers most places that are open to the public. Laws and regulations vary worldwide:


Further information: Islam and dogs

Because some schools of thought in Islam consider dogs in general to be unclean,[37] many Muslim taxi drivers and store owners have refused to accommodate customers who have service animals, which has led to discrimination charges against them.[38] However, in 2003 the Sharia Council, a non-legal advocacy group based in the United Kingdom, ruled that the ban on dogs does not apply to those used for guide work.[39]

Benefits of owning a guide dog

Elliot Aronson, a notable social psychologist and his guide dog, Desilu, whom he received in January 2011

Studies show owning a pet or therapy animal offer positive effects psychologically, socially, and physiologically. Guide dogs especially come with a variety of benefits and help in many ways. They give a blind person more confidence, friendship, and security.[40] Blind people who use service animals have increased confidence in going about day-to-day life and are comforted by a constant friend.[41] Companionship offered by a service dog helps reduce anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Because animals offer support, security, and companionship, stress is reduced, which in turn improves cardiovascular health. “A number of studies identify pet ownership as a factor in improved recovery from illness and in improved health in general”.

Guide dogs make it easier to get around, resulting in the person getting more exercise or walking more.[40] People are more willing to go places and feel a sense of independence.[41] Meeting people and socializing is easier, and people are more likely to offer a blind person help when there is a service animal present.[40] The animals may also lead to increased interaction with other people. Animals are seen as “ice breakers” to a conversation with something to talk about.[41] In many cases, guide dogs offer a life changing experience. They are more advantageous than long canes when one is in an unfamiliar place. The animal directs the right path, instead of poking around wondering if you might bump into something. Guide dogs make the experience of the unknown more relaxing.[40] Getting from point A to point B using a guide dog is much faster and safer.[41] Owners of guide dogs share a special bond with their animal. Many report that the animal is a member of the family, and go to their animal for comfort and support. The animal isn’t seen as a working animal, but more as a loyal friend.[40] However it is important to remember that guide dogs are working animals and should not be distracted or treated as a normal animal while they are working.

See also


  1. Opie, Iona and Peter Opie, ed. The Webster Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1952.
  2. Barrett Browning, Elizabeth. Aurora Leigh, Book V., ll. 1028-9.
  3. Putnam, Peter Brock, Love in the Lead: The Miracle of the Seeing Eye Dog (2nd edition), University Press of America, 1997, p. 20
  4. Volunteers, Guide Dog Users of Canada. "Guide Dog Users of Canada - History of Guide Dogs". Retrieved 2016-11-03.
  5. Hughes, Lorna. "Dog walk marks 80th anniversary of first guide dogs in Wallasey". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 2016-06-17.
  6. Article(subscription required), The London Paper at
  7. 1 2 "The History of Guide Dogs in Britain" (Microsoft Word document). The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  8. Paul Harpur, ‘The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Australian anti-discrimination laws: What Happened to the Legal Protections for People Using Guide or Assistance Dogs?’ (2010) 29 University of Tasmania Law Review 1, 49-77
  9. Uexküll, Jakob; Sarris, Emanuel Georg (1931). "Der Führhund der Blinden". Die Umschau. 35 (51): 1014–1016.
  10. "People with Disabilities - HUD". 1991-03-13. Retrieved 2016-06-17.
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 25, 2015. Retrieved May 16, 2015.
  12. "Equality Act 2010". Retrieved 2016-06-17.
  13. "Laws of Malta, Page 13, Cap. 413". Ministry for Justice, Culture, and Local Government. Malta Justice Services. October 1, 2000. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  14. "Disability Discrimination Act 1992". Retrieved 2016-02-25.
  15. "Blind Persons' Rights Act, RSA 2000, c B-3". Retrieved 2016-02-29.
  16. "Service Dogs Act, SA 2007, c S-7.5". Retrieved 2016-02-29.
  17. "Guide Animal Act, RSBC 1996, c 177". Retrieved 2016-02-29.
  18. "The Human Rights Code, CCSM c H175". Retrieved 2016-02-29.
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  34. "Captcha". Retrieved 2016-02-29.
  35. "Euroacessibilidade - Acessibilidade em Estado de Sítio". Retrieved 2016-02-25.
  36. Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, s.v. "Dogs in the Islamic Tradition and Nature." New York: Continuum International, forthcoming 2004. By: Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl
  37. Dolan, Andy (19 July 2010). "Muslim bus drivers refuse to let guide dogs on board". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 4 May 2012. The problem to carry guide dogs on religious grounds has become so widespread that the matter was raised in the House of Lords last week, prompting transport minister Norman Baker to warn that a religious objection was not a reason to eject a passenger with a well-behaved guide dog.
  38. "Guide dogs not haram, rules Shariah". Asian News. MEN Media. 1 February 2003. Retrieved 4 May 2012. ... guide dogs can accompany disabled people into restaurants or taxis managed or driven by Muslims.
  39. 1 2 3 4 5 Whitmarsh, Lorraine (April 2005). "The Benefits Of Guide Dog Ownership". Visual Impairment Research. 7 (1): 27–42. doi:10.1080/13882350590956439.
  40. 1 2 3 4 Joy-Taub Miner, Rachel (Winter 2001). "The experience of living with and using a guide dog". RE:view. 32 (4). Retrieved 6 October 2013.
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