About Guide Dogs | Living with a Guide Dog

Anyone whose vision is significantly impaired needs to take steps to preserve their independence and lifestyle. The key to this is independent mobility. A guide dog helps a blind or visually impaired person to walk freely and safely at any pace, to walk erectly and confidently, and to be free and spontaneous!

Bringing a new guide dog home is an exciting event and is much like bringing home a new baby! It is important to remember that the dog is entering new and unfamiliar surroundings and needs to become accustomed to your home. It is best to devote the first month to being at home and going about your usual routine, and to postpone vacations or long trips for the first month until you and your dog are better accustomed to your new life together.

After completing the instruction course, you will return home and resume your daily routine. The objective of the course is to enable you to be as independent as possible, and not be dependent upon the center. The instructors are just a phone call away. The center remains in contact with clients through newsletters and clients are invited to participate in events sponsored by the center. You will also be visited once each year by an instructor who will observe you and your dog working together, and answer any questions or deal with any problems that arise.

Despite all the care an intensive training your dog received at the center as a guide dog, it is still a dog.  It is a domesticated animal and therefore dependent upon your care.

Dogs are social animals. Unlike a cane, they are not merely a mobility tool to be used when needed and then put aside! They flourish with love and a sense of belonging. Your dog needs attention and will enjoy being with you and playing together.

Your dog’s bed – It is important that your dog have a place where it feels safe and comfortable. It does not have to be large, but should be spacious enough for the dog to rest and sleep when it is not active. It is important that the dog’s place be inside the house so that it feels it is an inseparable part of the family.    The place must be clean and in a spot where it does not get in the way.

Feeding your dog– Guide dogs eat only high-quality dry dog food. It is important that the dog be fed at regular times each day and that its food be carefully measured. Feeding a guide dog table scraps and other foods is liable to encourage bad habits, compromise its health, and even shorten its life.

Drinking water – It is important to provide the dog with cool fresh water at all times. When working with the dog during the hot summer months be sure to carry water with you and give the dog water frequently.

Dog Relief Area – The dog should have an area outside near the house where it can relieve itself. It is important that the dog be taken out four times each day to relieve itself according to a permanent schedule so that it can concentrate on its work without constantly looking for a place to relieve itself.

Exercise – Before you apply for a guide dog it is important to remember that a dog is dependent upon its handler to take it out for exercise. Your dog will need to be taken out to walk at least twice each day for a half hour. Other outdoor activity such as running off leash in a safe area such as a public dog park is also important.

Brushing – Your dog’s appearance reflects the care it receives. It is important to brush your dog each day.  Daily brushing cuts down shedding and dog hair in the house that is part of living with a dog. Daily brushing is a good opportunity to inspect your dog closely. Health problems can be detected early by using your senses of touch and smell. Brushing also provides your dog with attention and love.

Preventing fleas and ticks – Your dog should be treated against fleas and ticks once each month during the summer and once every two months during the winter. There are a variety of flea and tick products that are easy to apply and prevent parasites effectively.

Veterinary care – Your dog should be checked by a veterinarian at least twice each year. The veterinarian will also give your dog annual inoculations and other treatments.

Guide dogs work for approximately eight years. It is hard to part with a beloved dog after such a long time, but a guide dog’s work is physically difficult, and it is unfair to expect an elderly dog to do the work it did when it was young. There are several options open to you when it is time to retire your dog and retrain with a new dog:

  • Your dog can remain with you as a pet alongside your new dog.
  • A friend or family member can adopt your dog.
  • The center will find a family to adopt your dog.

The Bill Forbidding Discrimination of Blind Persons Assisted by Guide Dogs was passed in 1993. This bill includes several clauses:

  • It is forbidden to deny a person employment based upon the fact that they are assisted by a guide dog.
  • A blind person assisted by a guide dog is allowed into all public places and facilities.
  • It is forbidden to deny a blind person assisted by a guide dog use of any form of public transport, or to demand payment for entering with a guide dog. Unlike pet dogs, guide dogs are not required to wear a muzzle when traveling on public transport.

The following is the law in its entirety.