Each April, we celebrate International Guide Dog Day. Dogs have long been identified as “man’s best friend,” but some canines go above and beyond the call of duty by working as service dogs – helping those with visual impairments make their way through the world and providing love and comfort in other ways. References to guide dogs date back to at least the 16th century, so for the hundreds of years of service that these faithful companions have provided, we say thank you on April 25 to commemorate International Guide Dog Day, celebrated each year on the last Wednesday of April.
International Guide Dog Day - History
Americans with Disabilities Act regulations published
The ADA establishes legal protections for those using dogs as service animals.
First U.S. Guide Dog Training School Opens
Dorothy Harrison Eustis and Morris Frank open The Seeing Eye in Tennessee.
First Guide Dog Training School Opens
Dogs were trained to assist German veterans following World War I.
First Known Reference to Guide Dogs
Nursery rhyme “A is an Archer” includes the line “B was a Blind-man/Led by a dog.”
How to Observe International Guide Dog Day
1. Learn what it takes to train a service dog
It can take months or even years to properly train a guide dog, as more goes into helping their handlers safely navigate streets, shops or other locations than one might initially thing. For one thing, guide dogs are taught to recognize whether or not a command would put their handler in danger and instructed to disobey such instructions. That’s not an easy thing to teach a pet!
2. Support organizations that train guide dogs and pair them with humans
There are several organizations throughout the world that train guide dogs and match them with people who are blind or suffering from visual impairment, and like other nonprofit organizations, they could benefit from your time and/or donations. These organizations include Guide Dogs for the Blind, the Guide Dog Foundation, and the National Association of Guide Dog Users.
3. Do something nice for a special guide dog that you know
Not all of us are lucky enough to know a specially-trained guide dog, but for those lucky enough to be so blessed, International Guide Dog Day would be a great time to do something special for that faithful companion. Perhaps you could purchase them a special toy or treat – but if you want to do something for a guide dog, be sure you check with his/her hander first!
5 Important Guide Dog Facts
1. Some breeds are better than others
The breed most likely to be chosen as a guide dog is the Labrador Retrievers due to its short coat, gentle temperament, willingness to help, and overall health.
2. Guide dog benefits are scientifically proven
Along with increased mobility, studies have shown that guide dogs boost a person’s confidence, provide companionship, and can even lead to increased social interaction.
3. What’s in a name?
A 2016 survey found that the most common names for guide dogs and other canine companions were Max, Charlie, and Buddy for males, and Bella, Lucy, and Daisy for females.
4. Guide dogs know height and weight
Guide dogs are trained to determine how tall and wide things are to keep their handlers from bumping into objects and harming themselves.
5. Hands off the service dog!
You shouldn’t feed or pet a guide dog without permission, as it could distract the animal when it is attempting to perform important work!
Why International Guide Dog Day is Important
A. Guide dogs help the visually impaired live full lives
More than 140 million people in the United States alone are blind or suffer from some sort of vision impairment, according to Prevent Blindness America. Properly-trained guide dogs help those men and women remain safe and independently mobile by helping them avoid obstacles, know when to cross streets and guiding them through busy malls and supermarkets.
B. It provides an opportunity to recognize guide dog trainers
Guide dog training can be an expensive and time-consuming process. Some reports indicate that it can take up to two years and $25,000 to fully train a single service canine. In addition to giving folks an opportunity to recognize the work of guide dogs themselves, International Guide Dog Day lets us also offer a tip of the cap to the dedicated men and women who train them.
C. It celebrates dogs – what’s not to love?
Dogs are called “man’s best friend” for a reason – men and women all over the world cherish their beloved canine companions, whether they are specially trained as service animals or not. Any opportunity to celebrate these faithful animals is one that’s well worth capitalizing on!