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Did you know that there’s a special doggy holiday around the corner? April 27th is International Guide Dogs Day! Guide dogs definitely deserve recognition: these smart, hard-working pups have helped change the lives of millions of people! A local veterinarian discusses guide dogs in this article.
The very first schools for training guide dogs date back to World War I, and were built in Germany. However, Fido may have been working as a guide dog much longer than that. In fact, Italian art dated from 79 CE depicted a blind man being led by a dog! Guide dogs were also mentioned in poetry by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Man’s Best Friend can help his humans in a variety of ways. Guide dogs allow people to live independently, which reduces their owners’ stress and anxiety, and improves their overall happiness and well-being. These very good boys perform many different roles, and provide invaluable support and assistance. For instance, Fido helps his people navigate busy streets and stores. He also assists with simple tasks, such as fetching things. Guide dogs also
Many different breeds can be guide dogs. The ones most likely to be found in this role are Golden Retrievers, Labradors, German Shepherds, and Standard Poodles. Recently, there has also been an uptick in guide dogs that are crosses of these breeds, such as the Goldador and Labradoodle.
Guide dogs are strictly protected by law in many places. In the US, they’re covered under both the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act. Fido is by law allowed pretty much anywhere his owner can go, with the only exceptions being certain sterile environments, such as laboratories and certain hospital wards. Canada has similar laws, as do many other places, including the UK, Mexico, Australia, and South America.
There’s some confusion about the categories of guide, service, and therapy dogs. Service dogs are defined as animals ‘trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.’ Therefore, technically, all guide dogs are service dogs. However, not all service dogs are guide dogs: there are also several other types of service dogs. Therapy dogs help provide support to people emotionally, and are not under the same protections. Keep in mind that the same rule of thumb applies to all working dogs. You should never approach, pet, or interact with them. Let Fido work! The only exception is if a dog approaches you. That’s because some pups are trained to get help when needed.
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