How Dogs Help The Visually Impaired
Things We Thought About "Seeing Eye Dogs"
If you have ever really watched the interaction of a person with a guide dog, or assistance dog, you may have thought that the dog is leading the person. After all, the dog usually walks in front of the person; and is on a stiff, professional harness, and always is "working". The epidomy of intense focus and unweaning concentration.
However, did you know, the person is actually leading the dog?
Red Light - Green Light - How to Know When to Go?
For example, a visually impaired person waits on the curb to cross the street. Maybe they can see the traffic lights a bit, maybe not at all. But when a person losses their sense of sight, overtime, and practice the person's other senses get stronger. So the person uses their sense of hearing to know when it is safe to cross. They use their hearing to judge the speed of cars passing and the tell when the row of cars has stopped, making it safe for them to cross. They can also use the noise signals from the traffic lights as well. The person gives the dog a command to "go" or "stop" and this makes it appear as though the dog is in control, but it is really the person leading the way. The signal from the owner may be easily missed as it is subtle, it may be a verbal word "go" or it may be a silent hand signal.
Dogs also do not have colorful vision like humans do. they see in shades of blue and white mostly. So it would be really challenging for dogs to distinguish green lights from red lights.
Dogs see limited shades - their world is not as colorful as ours
Having a Guide Dog is a Choice: Not Mandatory
Owners who do use guide dogs have gone through a rigorous process to earn them. The owner has to be independent; able to care for others despite visual impairment and have time and motivation to go to training classes consecutively over time to gain an relationship with their chosen dog.
Guide dogs are so highly-skilled they need to practice everyday or they will lose their skills
Things the Owner Needs to Consider
- Dogs need to be groomed daily. Even dogs with a short coat, need care. They need eye washing, ear rinsing and regular baths, including nail trimming.
- Dogs need to be fed, 2-3 times every day
- Dogs need to be taken out to pee and poo 3-4 or more times a day
- Dogs need regular walks and exercise
- Dogs need time for affection from their owners and playtime with their owners
- Dogs need regular check ups with a veterinarian once or twice a year
Can you imagine coping with all of this when you have a visual impairment yourself?
Having a Guide Dog is Not The Best Decision For Everyone
Some people with visual impairment may prefer to use a walking cane, instead of the life-long responsibility of owning a dog.
Is a Guide Dog Right for You?
Depending on the specific visual impairment a guide dog may be the right choice for you. When vision is low but not completely absent it is important to consider the depth perception the person actually has. Does the person want to care for an animal for the long-term? And would the person be able to manage an animal for the long-term? These are just some questions to consider when thinking about when a guide dog is suitable for someone.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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