6 Frequently Asked Questions About Guide Dogs

  • 12/02/2020

People are naturally curious when they see a guide dog out in public, but oftentimes, they have many misconceptions about what the guide dog is doing. To some people, a guide dog might just look like a friendly pet that is out for a walk. They might want to pet or play with the dog.

However, petting a guide dog can be distracting to both the dog and the handler. Before you start petting a guide dog while it is working, make sure to familiarize yourself with these six frequently asked questions about guide dogs. It can help you know how to respond appropriately next time you see one in public.

What kind of work do guide dogs do?

Guide dogs are at work when they’re out in public with their handler and have their harness on. The dog has a very close bond with the handler. Both the handler and dog have had hours of training together, allowing the dog to protect the handler while out in public.

The guide dogs are trained to navigate obstacles for handlers that are blind or hearing impaired. For example, if the handler wants to cross the street, they will give a command to their guide dog. The guide dog will wait until it is safe and then lead their handler across the street.

Are guide dogs the same as service dogs?

Not all service dogs are guide dogs. A service dog is any type of dog that is trained to help people with disabilities. For example, if someone has seizures, they might have a service dog that helps them when they’re seizing. Service dogs are trained to help with a variety of tasks.

Instead, guide dogs are a specific type of service dog. Guide dogs are specifically trained to work with those that are visually or hearing impaired. Their job is to assist their handler through various obstacles, such as alerting them to a blockage on a path.

Can guide dogs go everywhere?

Many people wonder where guide dogs can go. Since normal dogs aren’t allowed in restaurants, some people feel that guide dogs shouldn’t be allowed either. However, keep in mind that guide dogs are not pets. They are working animals that are helping keep their handler safe.

With that in mind, guide dogs are allowed in all public spaces. They go into stores, restaurants, schools, parks, and more. They’re also allowed on public transportation. It is illegal to deny entry to someone that has a guide dog. The only places guide dogs aren’t allowed are animal enclosures and some specific wards of hospitals.

What breeds make the best guide dogs?

Certain breeds have traits that make them ideal guide dogs. Labs and golden retrievers are common breeds that are used because they are easily trained and have good temperaments. German shepherds are another type of dog commonly used because of their kind nature and ability to provide physical support.

There is a careful process that matches a handler to a guide dog. Characteristics of both the handler and the breed are considered when making the match. For example, a more active person will be paired with a dog that has plenty of energy.

What happens when a guide dog retires?

Most guide dogs retire when they’re about 10 years old. This is when they start struggling to perform their job adequately. Many people wonder if guide dogs are put down when they retire.

The answer is no! A retired guide dog becomes a full-time pet, usually to the handler or a trainer. In some cases, it might also go to another loving home in the community that wants an older dog. A retired dog gets to sleep, eat, and receive plenty of tummy rubs.


How should people act around guide dogs?

People should not pet or feed a guide dog while it is on duty. Petting or talking to the guide dog distracts it from the work it is supposed to be doing, which could result in the handler getting injured. And you should never feed any dog that you don’t know food. Unfamiliar food can make dogs sick.

If you have questions about the dog, you can always stop the handler and ask if they have a moment to chat with you. However, most of the time handlers might be going somewhere specific and might not have the time to stop and talk with you.

Final thoughts

Next time you see a guide dog out on a harness, resist the urge to pet it! Guide dogs and other services dogs play an important role in the community and help keep their owners safe and protected. Not to mention, it is always a good practice to ask the owner before petting a dog, even if it isn’t a guide dog.

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