Six-Legged Teamwork: What Guide Dogs Are and Are Not Responsible For

Many people labor under the assumption that guide dogs do all the work, make all the decisions, and generally act as a GPS that takes their person wherever they need to go. Friends, guide dogs are brilliant, but they are not omniscient. A guide dog is one half of a team. They are the half with vision, the fluffier, often times much cuter half, but still only one half of the whole.

What Guide Dogs Are and Are Not Responsible For

A guide dog is responsible for guiding their handler safely across the street. This basically means guiding them to the up-curb and keeping an eye out for cars that don’t like obeying traffic laws.

A guide dog is not responsible for reading traffic. It is up to the handler to decide when it is safe to cross the street. The guide dog waits at the down-curb for the forward command that lets them know it is time to go.

Guide dogs are responsible for navigating through crowds without causing chaos. They do their best to wind and weave through pedestrians and obstacles without being in the way or bumping their handler into anything or anyone. It takes a lot of focus and a lot of talent, and I am incredibly proud of Nouveau for being great at this.

Guide dogs are not responsible for deciding the best way around an obstacle. If a parked car were in their path, for instance, they would approach it and stop to show it to their handler. Then, they would wait for their handler to tell them which way to navigate around it.

Guide dogs are responsible for targeting a doorway or an entrance to a familiar destination, if they have previously been trained to do so. Even this, though, is prompted by their handler requesting them to target something. This is accomplished by slowing their gait and physically and verbally indicating to the dog that something different is about to happen.

Guide dogs are not responsible for planning a route from point A to point B. The handler decides which way to go, which streets to cross, which areas to avoid, and what bus to catch. The guide dog follows instructions and listens to the handler.

Guide dogs are responsible for ignoring distractions. Whether it’s food on the ground, an extra handsome dog, or an annoying pedestrian making kissing noises, guide dogs are trained to maintain focus and disregard these temptations.

Guide dogs are not responsible for ensuring they are well-behaved and clean. It is the handler’s responsibility to ensure they keep up with obedience, grooming, teeth brushing, ear cleaning, nail clipping, flea and heartworm medication, vet check-ups, and general upkeep of a lovable guide dog. A lot of time, money, and hard work goes into training a guide dog, and a lot of time, money, and hard work should be devoted to maintaining a guide dog. The constant love, devotion, and freedom guide dogs give their handlers are unparalleled by anything in this world as far as I am concerned, and a guide dog’s well-being should always be first and foremost on their handler’s mind.

This has just been a snapshot of five things guide dogs are and are not responsible for. If you have any further questions, please comment with your thoughts!

Be kind, and be aware.

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7 thoughts on “Six-Legged Teamwork: What Guide Dogs Are and Are Not Responsible For

  1. Love it. Debunking myths is a great thing. Great job! Love, Mom.

    “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6 (NKJ)

  2. Whenever you post, dearest sister, you gently tap home a point that needs tapping. Each of your posts is so well thought out and so well written. I really can’t find the words to express how awed I am by this blog. You’re informative, you’re funny, you’re articulate. I love all things guide dog, and this post is no different. I love the way you describe things here, and the whole concept makes me smile, because there is indeed a lot of confusion as to how a guide dog truly works. Once again, fantastic job.

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