Did you know that guide dogs are allowed on public transport such as the MRT and buses? Service animals are allowed to accompany visually handicapped commuters and are allowed on board trains and in train stations. The guide dogs will wear a special harness.
Guide dogs are assistant dogs that are specially trained to provide help to people who are living with disabilities. This type of dog serves the purpose of leading visually impaired and blind individuals by helping them find their way around obstacles or situations that they would not typically be able to navigate.
Training A Guide Dog
A dog is not transformed into a guide dog within a matter of minutes or hours. It takes a lot of time to train and socialize the dog within a range of environments and situations until it is matched with a companion who is visually impaired.
- Larger breeds such as German shepherds, Labradors and Golden Retrievers are the main options for guide dogs due to their size. They have the ability to lead their companions or handlers and avoid walking into hazardous situations.
- Puppies that will end up as guide dogs are usually placed inside the homes of foster families or volunteers. This is essential for enabling them to develop social skills. Dogs are expected to begin advanced training sessions after a year. These sessions are facilitated by professional trainers and can last for as long as six months.
- During this training period, specialized skills like retrieving objects as well as navigation and obedience are taught and practiced. Guide dogs are introduced to the harnesses that they will be wearing when they work in order for them to be able to enhance their partners’ mobility.
- After completing this level of training, the dog embarks on the next phase that consists of assisting a visually impaired person who has applied for a service dog. An instructor or school is responsible for supervising the matching process. At this time, the handler or partner and dog start to bond and work through training sessions that involve practicing in daily situations that they are likely to face in the world.
- The estimated cost of raising a guide dog is around $55,000.
Aiding Independence And Mobility
Guide dogs serve as their handlers’ eyes by helping them to develop independence and mobility. Guide dogs are usually allowed in any public place and are not subjected to the restrictions that public spots such as restaurants usually impose on animals.
As a guide dog leads its handler, it is trained to do various things, which include stopping at the bottom and top of steps, ignoring distractions, maintaining an even pace, obeying commands and assisting the handler with public transportation.
While it can be tempting to be friendly towards any dog you come across, a guide dog is actually working and should be focused on the handler’s mobility. It is essential to keep the following considerations in mind when you come across a guide dog:
- You may offer your help to the owner of the dog if it is required
- Allow the dog to rest without disturbance
- Do not interfere with the dog’s harness
- Do not confuse the dog
- Do not issue commands or instructions to the dog
- Do not offer treats or food to the dog
Helping People Enjoy Fulfilling Lives
Since time immemorial, there has been an enduring partnership between animals and human beings. However, in recent times, animals have provided more specific and dedicated help than ever through trained assistance or service to people who have disabilities.
Dogs can help people achieve tasks that would usually be virtually impossible or prohibitive. The reality is that a service or assistance animal is not a pet because it is doing a job. This is why service dogs are exempted from prohibitive rules that restrict animals from businesses and public places.
Guide dogs enable visually impaired individuals to move around with ease and under safe conditions. Various organizations that specialize in training guide dogs breed puppies for this purpose. Along with the benefit of the sizes of larger breeds such as German shepherds, they are also used because of their natural desire to help, intelligence and calmness.
Service And Versatility
Hearing dogs have also become common over the years. They typically include mixed breeds that have been rescued and are trained to alert people when certain sounds occur such as a ringing phone or baby crying. This alert is raised when the dog places its paw on the partner and leads them to the sound. Hearing dogs are also trained to identify signals of danger like intruders and alarms. A special posture is practiced for this type of alert, which enables the human to decide what to do next.
It is possible to train dogs for various helpful purposes, including therapeutic companionship to provide individuals with emotional support in places such as hospitals or any other environment where there may be lack of stimulation or loneliness. There are various training programs that can be implemented for certifying animals.
How Do We Identify A Guide Dog?
You may have seen a person with a guide dog in a bus and wondered what was going on. Assistance dogs help people with disabilities in various ways, including guiding blind people. There a variety of assistance dog organizations and charities around the world. They usually have a special harness on them, stating their job.
- Training a dog takes time and the process can be very involving. Puppies start early in order for them to become familiar with commands and their surroundings.
- A certified dog generally has public access and undergoes the training that is necessary for helping the disabled person. The owners of guide dogs have the right to access public services. It is illegal for owners of guide dogs to be prevented from entering taxis and buses with their dogs.
- While dogs are generally great companions and can be very helpful, a guide dog is expected to be really good. Not all dogs that go into training pass the test. Spotting a potential guide dog as soon as possible helps to cut down on the amount of time that a trainer needs and prevents wastage of efforts on dogs that are not going to make it. This ensures that visually impaired individuals get the help they need faster.
- A young dog that lacks problem-solving skills or has a tendency to be anxious is unlikely to evolve into a good guide dog. It is essential for a guide dog to have the ability to help individuals navigate around a challenging world without distractions.
Guide Dogs And Humans
Dogs are known for being amazing animals. However, guide dogs are truly outstanding. Along with the conventional companionship they provide, they continue to play a crucial role in visually impaired people’s lives.
- Guide dogs gain proficiency in directing humans safely towards a destination. This involves being on the lookout for dangers both below and above. Hazardous situations for a blind person range from potholes and stairs to power lines and handing tree branches.
- Along with obeying commands, a guide dog is taught how to be logical. The dog is aware that unsafe commands such as crossing a street in the midst of oncoming traffic cannot be obeyed. This level of intelligence is necessary for keeping the dog and handler safe.
- Dogs are also aware of the importance of ignoring distractions that can disrupt their work. Unlike some dogs, they would not rush towards a ball that crosses their path and forget about their owners. Guide dogs have good manners and social skills that they need when visiting places like shops and restaurants.
- Although guide dogs are remarkably smart, there are few things that may be beyond their capabilities. For example, they cannot read traffic signs or determine directions in an unfamiliar place. The handler and the dog need to work together effectively to navigate their surroundings successfully.
Guide Dogs In Singapore
It is interesting to note that there are several Singaporeans who are not familiar with guide dogs and what they do. One lady’s experience exposed this lack of awareness. Guide dogs assist blind people with movement and are allowed on public transport as well as indoors.
- Guide dogs are not regarded as pets because they have a specific job to do, which is helping people blind people to move around. A guide dog can usually be recognized by the harnesses they wear when they walk with their owners.
- Harnessing a dog improves the mobility and safety of the visually impaired or blind person and makes it easier for people to be independent when moving from place to place.
- Guide dogs are allowed to access various establishments and public transport systems. They should never be chased away and have the legal right to enter public places. Since guide dogs have been trained to behave accordingly, there is no risk of them disrupting activities or being a nuisance to anyone.
Spreading Awareness About Guide Dogs
A Singaporean lady shared her experience on social media regarding how people react when they encounter her with a guide dog. Typical reactions include complaining about the dog’s presence inside a bus, exiting a lift when the dog entered, refusing the dog to be allowed indoors and telling the handler to remove the dog. Considering how difficult it can be for handlers to move around Singapore with their guide dogs, there is a growing need for people to learn more about these amazing dogs.
- With proper and widespread awareness about guide dogs, people will no longer be afraid or dismissive when they come across. Everyone should make an effort to be kind to service dogs and the humans they work with. Guide dogs are legally allowed in eateries, on public transport and indoors. They are working and making life much easier for their owners.
- A guide dog gives independence to a visually impaired person who needs help to get through daily life. This includes seeing family and friends, going to shops, going to work and other daily challenges and activities. This assists human beings by creating freedom and independence for blind or visually impaired individuals and allows them to handle daily tasks like any other person.
- The help that a guide dog provides also takes pressure off the friends and families of visually impaired people who may not be able to look after their loved ones all the time. With a well-trained dog, people are no longer restricted or tied down.
Guide dog owners work with training organizations to determine when the dog will retire. However, an entire life of working as a guide dog does not usually exceed eight years. Retired dogs can remain with their owners as long as they are able to take care of the dog’s needs after retirement.
There are times when people find it difficult to take care of the older dog’s welfare after training begins with a new dog. In this type of situation, suggestions can be provided for someone else to provide a home for the retired dog or organize the process of moving to a new caring home.
In Singapore, there is a large gap between the number of people who own guide dogs and the number of visually impaired individuals who can potentially reap the benefits of guide dog ownership. There are numerous benefits that are associated with guide dogs that vary among people and in different situations.
Research over the years has revealed several social and psychological benefits of owning an assistance dog. It also shows the effectiveness and impact of guide dogs. Some of the highlighted benefits of owning a guide dog in Singapore include increased mobility, increased social interaction, companionship, confidence and independence. These social and psychological aspects distinguish guide dog ownership as an outstanding mobility aid that has the capacity to change people’s lives.