Woof! 9 interesting — and surprising — facts about guide dogs


In honor of National Guide Dog Month, check out how much you know about these highly trained canines.

Paws on sidewalk and hand on harness, the team is ready to take on the world — together.

A guide dog is a specific type of service dog that is trained to assist people who are blind or have low vision. Guide dogs learn to stop at curbs and stairs, move around obstacles and sometimes to respond to simple commands like “Find the chair.” The dog’s handler decides where they are going and gives the commands. They are a team.

September is National Guide Dog Month — a time to bring awareness to the very special relationships guide dogs and their owners share every day.

But remember, no matter how cute you find that furry face, you should not pet or distract a guide dog at work, or “in-harness.” For the team’s safety, working guide dogs should be left to focus on doing their job.

If the team appears lost or in need of help, just ask. Or, if you see they are in imminent danger, communicate guidance calmly and clearly.

Now — Sit. Stay. And learn some fascinating facts about guide dogs:

1. Ancient bond. A first-century mural dating from the Roman ruins of Herculaneum and a 13th century Chinese scroll are believed to be among the earliest depictions of dogs leading people who are blind.

2. On alert. Guide dogs are trained to lead around obstacles, including hazards like low branches that may be above the height of the dog but not of its owner. The dogs learn to be responsible for a space two times as wide and up to three times as tall as themselves to keep their owners safe.

3. Popular pups. Labradors, golden retrievers, German shepherds and labrador/golden crosses are common guide dog breeds, chosen for traits including size, intelligence and temperament.

4. Buddies indeed. On June 11, 1928, Morris Frank, who was blind, and his German shepherd guide dog Buddy made the papers when they safely crossed a dangerous streetin New York City in front of reporters. Frank and Dorothy Harrison Eustis, who bred and trained Buddy, went on to start the first guide dog school in the United States.

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