January 29th is National Seeing Eye Dog Day. Seeing eye dogs are service dogs specially trained to be the eyes for their visually impaired owners. Typically Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds are chosen as seeing eye dogs, since these breeds are capable of complex training, and staying calm and focused when necessary.
If you’ve ever watched a seeing eye dog being trained or guiding a blind person, you’ve probably been amazed at the intricacy of what they do and the amount of trust their owners place in them. That’s because seeing eye dogs are incredibly trustworthy. When in harness their singular purpose is to keep their owners safe and steer them on the right path. (Sometimes, when out of harness, a whole other, playful personality emerges, which makes their training all the more impressive!)
Seeing eye dogs are often specially bred by organizations that train and place them. They may spend a portion of their early life with a foster family, but they are placed in intensive training at a malleable age and train hard before they ever meet their future owner. Once matched with an owner, the dogs and owners train together for a lengthy period of time before they’re sent home to start their partnership in earnest.
Most seeing eye dogs work with their owners for 8-10 years, if healthy and if no behavioral problems arise. Once retired, many go to loving adoptive families.
Many schools for seeing eye dogs are nonprofits and rely heavily on donations to survive. Consider making a donation in honor of the good work these faithful dogs do! For more information, visit The Seeing Eye online or find a school near you.