Since January 29, 1929, the seeing-eye dog program has been going strong, and continues to keep going strong!
Unfortunately, people, who were blind we treated differently than they are now. In 1929, Mr. Morris Frank and Dorothy Harrison Eustis trained Buddy, the first seeing eye dog, to help Mr. Frank enhance his mobility and independence, allowing him to retain an active lifestyle.
Buddy, The First Seeing-Eye Dog
Buddy, a German Shepherd, was trained by Dorothy, but Mr. Frank was worried that businesses wouldn’t allow him to enter because he had Buddy with him at all times. Because of this, Mr. Frank and Buddy became the traveling spokespeople fo the “Guide Dog Movement.”
Mr. Frank and Buddy traveled nationwide to make people enhance the independence and dignity of people that are blind and visually impaired. This allowed the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which grants the right of public access to people assisted by service dogs.
The Seeing Eye is the oldest guide dog school in the world. This non-profit school breed, raise, and trains German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers (and other breeds) to guide people who are blind and visually impaired. Thanks to “The Seeing Eye” and other organizations like it, training methods, as well as laws, are improving so that their impairment doesn’t limit individuals with seeing-eye dogs.
And in their 91 years, they have also trained dogs to assist in more things than just being a seeing-eye dog. Some examples include mobile assistance dogs, which help people who have trouble getting around due to cerebral palsy, severe arthritis, or other conditions. “Mobility assistance dogs can be trained to do things such as push an elevator button, open and close doors, and even pick up car keys and credit cards off of the ground,” said Dr. Blue-McLendon.
They also have hearing dogs, which help the hearing impaired by responding to sound with specific behavior. For instance, when they hear a knock at the front door, they might be taught to sit in front of the person to alert them.
Another type of service dog that has recently become popular is PTSD dogs, or “emotional support dogs.” These animals are taught a wide variety of skills to assist people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders and are often aids to our military veterans.
All of these assistant dogs go through vigorous training to learn and perfect the skills needed to aid their human. There are two stages of training that the dogs must pass. Preparation starts as soon as they can eat on their own and go potty in a designated area.
They start with the “simple” stuff, like sit, stay, down, and heel. Once the dog has mastered this, they earn the “jacket privileges.” Jacket privileges include going to classes, retail stores, and then, once they have learned those, they get to go to a restaurant.
During stage two of the training, which wouldn’t be until they are a year to a year-and-a-half old, they start the formal training, which can take 3-6 months. They will be matched the the “perfect fit” human according to the dog’s ability and personality. They will need continual training and skill reminders for the remainder of their lives to make sure that they are continuing to serve their human in the best way possible.
We want to give a special shout out to all of the canines who serve as their owners’ eyes and ears and allowing them to be mobile and more independent. These special dogs’ loyalty and learned skills keep their humans safe and will enable them to be fully functioning individuals. Vital Pet Life is super proud to share this day with you!
How You Can Help
Thanks to the generosity of their supporters, the fee The Seeing Eye charge their students has remained unchanged since the 1930s -- $150 for their first Seeing Eye dog or $50 for a replacement dog. Military veterans are only charged $1.
You can help too! You can donate to the Seeing Eye by doing a one-time gift or monthly. Let’s help give the gift of mobility and independence to those in need!
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