More than 50% of US households have a dog as a pet and these furry companions make great walking partners and help to reduce loneliness. About 5% of people who are blind or vision impaired have a dog that is not only a companion but also a vital part of their everyday life and helping them to successfully navigate the world.
What is a Guide Dog?
A guide dog, also known as assistance dog or service dog, goes through extensive training to perform specific tasks based on what their owner will need. Guide dogs trained for people who are blind or vision impaired will help their owners avoid obstacles while walking, find street crossings and building entrances, and alert them to possible dangers when crossing a street. They also provide companionship while traveling or when in unfamiliar places.
Guide dogs will wear identifying vests or harnesses to make people aware that they are working and not to disturb them. Though these dogs are friendly and very well behaved, they need to focus on their tasks, and it is strongly advised not to pet them, approach them, or talk to them while they are working. Please be considerate and ask the dog’s owner for permission before petting their service dog. Always respect the owners wishes if the answer is “No.”
What Impact do Assistance Dogs have on their Owners?
Jeff Bazer, Regional Sales Manager at Vispero, shares his experience over the years with guide dogs and what they have meant to him. “I’m now in my 30th year of having a guide dog. Two weeks after I graduated high school, I was on a plane to the Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ for my first dog, and have never looked back. The independence and self-confidence a dog affords is still so unbelievable. Given the fact that I travel for a living, the ability to navigate the airport, hotel or schools and other offices is something I can’t imagine doing without a trained companion by my side. Not to mention all of the wonderful conversations that can be started by discussing dogs and how much we all love them. Finally, the comfort my dog provides while laying on my feet on the plane as we travel across the country is second to none. I plan to be back in the next couple of years for my fourth guide, and hopefully many more to follow.”
The first week of August is International Assistance Dog Week. IADW recognizes, celebrates, and honors “all the devoted, loving, and hardworking assistance dogs.”