National Guide Dog Day is held in September every year. It is a month-long celebration set apart to honor the work of guide dogs and raise awareness, appreciation, and support for guide dog schools across the U.S. Guide dogs go through rigorous training from an early age. They help those with sensory issues such as blindness and provide added mobility and independence for those who might not have otherwise had such freedoms. In the month of September, a drive is held to collect funds that go towards funding non-profit guide dog organizations accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation.
History of National Guide Dog Month
Dogs have been domesticated for around 150,000 years and have been coexisting with humans since back then. Ancient artifacts and scrolls show instances where dogs were guiding their human companions. The first attempt to train guide dogs was in Paris at the ‘Les Quinze-Vingts’ hospital for the blind. The founder of the Institute for the Education of the Blind ‘Blinden-Erziehungs-Institut’ in Vienna, Johann Wilhelm Klein, wrote about guide dogs in his book published in 1819. This provides evidence that dogs have been helping humans for a long period.
After the First World War, when many soldiers came back blind, the use of guide dogs peaked. The demand for this service prompted the opening of the first school for guide dogs in Oldenburg, Germany. Dog trainer Dorothy Harrison Eustis is attributed with bringing the first guide dog to America, and Eustis later established the ‘Seeing Eye School’ in Morristown, New Jersey.
Dick Van Patten was the inspiration behind National Guide Dog Month. He admired the ability of these dogs to improve the standards of life for those living with blindness but he was also aware of the time, energy, and cost that went into training these dogs. He decided to take action and raise awareness and monetary support for guide dog schools. Van Patten owned a pet food company that underwrote all costs for the promotion of National Guide Dog Month. The first guide dog fundraiser was in Southern California with the support of the Petco Foundation. Thanks to Van Patten’s effort, many guide dog organizations have now become beneficiaries of these month-long events.
National Guide Dog Month timeline
The ‘Les Quinze-Vingts’ hospital for the blind in Paris makes the first attempt to train guide dogs.
Dr. Gerhard Stalling establishes the first school for guide dogs in Oldenburg, Germany.
The month of May is picked as National Guide Dog Month.
National Guide Dog Month is moved to September due to conflicts with other fundraising drives.
National Guide Dog Month FAQs
How long are guide dogs kept on a waiting list?
They are matched based on compatibility with their potential humans. This process can take anywhere from six months to three years.
How much does it cost for a guide dog?
They are provided free of charge. This applies when a visually impaired person applies for one.
Do guide dogs bark?
Yes, but only rarely. When they do bark, it is in a non-aggressive manner that is in line with their training.
National Guide Dog Month Activities
Reward your pooch
This is the month to spoil your furry friend. Celebrate by getting him some treats and dog toys.
Donate to a guide-dog training facility. This money is sure to go a long way in improving the services at the facility
Throw a dog playdate
Host a party for other dog owners to celebrate. It is a great opportunity to hang out with your fellow ‘dog people.’
5 Facts About Guide Dogs
Some breeds make better guide dogs
The most popular breeds are Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds.
They are allowed to disobey
A guide dog will disobey its owner's commands if they see a hazard that its owner did not.
Not all dogs graduate
Only about 75% of dogs complete the rigorous training.
Their names are important
Guide dog names are chosen carefully and have one to two syllables for fast communication.
They also go into retirement
Guide dogs retire after about eight to 10 years of working.
Why We Love National Guide Dog Month
We love dogs
Dogs are man’s best friend and they have been for centuries. We welcome any reason to celebrate them.
Guide dogs are self-sacrificing
These dogs are incredibly smart and well-trained. They will do whatever it takes to keep their owners safe from harm.
It is a feel-good month
Dogs are wholesome and amazing companions that indeed deserve a month of acknowledgment. We have had great relationships with them for years.
National Guide Dog Month dates