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Guide Dog Myths and Truths

Black lab in Leader Dog harness facing toward the camera on a sidewalk. A person's leg can be seen in the background next to the dog. The background is blurred and the dog in focus

Today, we’re going to talk about guide dogs—those amazing four-legged companions who help people with visual impairments get around. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions out there about these incredible dogs, so we’re going to sort through the facts and fiction.

Myth #1: All guide dogs are the same breed. Truth: There are a few breeds that are commonly used as guide dogs—like Labrador retrievers, Golden retrievers and German shepherds—but other breeds can be trained as well. In fact, some guide dogs are crosses between multiple breeds. At Leader Dog, we use the three most common guide dog breeds as well as crossbred Labrador retrievers/golden retrievers and German Shepherd/Labrador retrievers.

Black lab/golden retriever cross running on grass with its tongue flopping to one side and its ears waving in the airMyth #2: Guide dogs are always “on duty.” Truth: Guide dogs are definitely trained to work when they’re in harness with their handlers, but they also need time to relax and play. When they’re not working, Leader Dogs are just dogs—running around, playing and snuggling with their people.

Myth #3: You can pet a guide dog whenever you want. Truth: This one is definitely a myth. When a guide dog is working, they’re focused on their job and need to pay attention to their handler and their surroundings. So, it’s important to never distract a guide dog by petting them, talking to them or making eye contact with them. It’s okay to ask their handler if you can say hi to the dog, but always wait for their permission before interacting with the dog.

Myth #4: Guide dogs know where they’re going all the time. Truth: While guide dogs are trained to lead their handlers safely through different environments, they don’t always know exactly where they’re going. Instead, they’re trained to follow specific cues from their handler like “forward,” “left” and “right” and to stop at curbs or obstacles. It’s up to the handler to give the dog directions and let them know where they want to go.

Myth #5: Guide dogs can only help people who are completely blind. Truth: This one is also a myth! Guide dogs can help people with a wide range of visual impairments, from total blindness to partial vision loss. Leader Dog requires our clients to be legally blind, but many of our clients have some remaining vision.

So, there you have it: some common myths and truths about guide dogs. These amazing dogs are trained to help their handlers live more independent lives, and they do an incredible job. And remember, if you see a guide dog out in public, give them plenty of space and respect for their important work!

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