National Seeing-Eye Dog Day is January 29th, which celebrates the partnerships between humans with visual limitations and the hero dogs who help them navigate their world.
Popular dogs that do well as guides include many service breeds, such as German Shepherds, Poodles, Labradors and Golden Retrievers, as well as mixes of these breeds. While each dog does need to be a certain size and temperament to be good at the job, there’s certainly a lot that goes into training them to be seeing-eye dogs. That’s where several charities come in who train seeing-eye dogs to work with people with visual impairments.
Let’s take a look at some of the seeing-eye dog charities that could use your support this year.
The Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ trains dogs and visually impaired people, and pairs them up to help these people live a more engaged life. Since its inception,The Seeing Eye has trained 17,000 humans and dogs that it raises in its own breeding facility. Graduates can access continuing support from the organization whenever they need it, or return to brush up on their training.
One of the goals of The Seeing Eye is to educate the public and contribute to discussions about public policy issues, such as when, where, and how these dogs are permitted into public places. They advocate for assistance aids such as traffic lights that make a sound when they change, because dogs can’t distinguish between red and green lights and look to their person to direct them when to move.
When a dog retires, The Seeing Eye puts them up for adoption in fur-ever homes. They do the same with dogs that don’t make it into the program.
How to get into contact with The Seeing Eye:
Since 1946, the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind has provided canine guide and human handler training at no charge. The foundation’s sister organization, America’s VetDogs, provides services for blind and disabled veterans. The foundation breeds and raises their own dogs, typically Golden or Labrador Retrievers.
Guide Dog Foundation’s 10-acre campus in Smithtown, NY was built to replicate real-life environments, such as sidewalks with curbs and restaurant style dining rooms to practice dog etiquette. Smithtown’s public transportation, streets and shops acclimate the dog and their handler to additional learning experiences. Education and guidance for its students and the public is one of the Guide Dog Foundation’s main priorities.
Learn more about the Guide Dog Foundation:
Guiding Eyes for the Blind connects remarkable dogs with sight-challenged individuals so they can achieve more independence. It has graduated almost 10,000 dog-person teams since its beginnings in 1954, and provides its services free of charge. The organization is an accredited member of the International Guide Dog Federation, which sets standards for guide dog training.
Guiding Eyes for the Blind operates a training center, a Canine Development Center, and a field office in the New York area. The charity also has a full-service veterinary hospital at each of its locations and works with veterinarians around the world to provide medical care for its dogs. Residential training, specialized training for people with additional disabilities, guides for runners, and in-home training are available.
Make a connection with Guiding Eyes:
The aim of Guide Dogs of America (GDA) is to improve confidence, mobility and independence among visually impaired people. All programs and services are free, and they provide transportation to and from Sylmar, CA. The organization is also accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation, which develops, monitors, and evaluates guide dog organizations to ensure they’re adhering to standards for breeding, training, and education.
GDA maintains a breeding colony, plus works with networks of approved breeders to ensure its dogs are healthy and have the best guiding temperaments. The program accepts people aged 18 and over, with no upper age limit, and teaches orientation and mobility education, focusing on sensory awareness and other traits and skills.
Guide Dogs of America believes that the relationships between a human and dog team should be maintainable over the long term. To this end, it offers its students veterinary care at its on-campus clinic, post-graduate services to address any issues, follow-up sessions for graduates, and boarding services.
Find out more about Guide Dogs of America:
Established in 1950, Pilot Dogs trains and furnishes dogs to assist blind people in getting around from place to place, being independent in their homes, and being able to take advantage of social and cultural opportunities. New students to the program receive 28 days of live on-campus training at no cost.
“Puppy Raisers” take puppies from the group’s own breeding colony and nurture them in their homes to ensure all dogs grow up well-adjusted and ready to try their paws at guiding. Not all dogs make the cut, so Pilot Dogs also helps these pups find fur-ever homes as companion animals.
Connect with Pilot Dogs for more:
Leader Dogs for the Blind has operated in the Detroit area since 1939, bringing trained seeing-eye dogs and visually impaired people together. The organization breeds and trains its dogs, then pairs them with people trained to handle and care for them. They match their dogs to the person’s lifestyle, personality, walking pace, physical size, and overall health to reach a perfect fit.
In addition to seeing-eye dog skills, Leader Dog offers an orientation and mobility skills course to be sure the unsighted person will be able to exercise their dog and have a basic understanding of how to navigate outside of home. All services and equipment are free of charge.
Leader Dogs for the Blind operates a free summer camp for blind teens, and offers T.O.M. Talks, seminars on technology, orientation and mobility for visually impaired people from ages 18-24. It combines live sessions via Zoom with self-directed virtual activities that focus on independent travel, networking, and professional preparation.
Learn more about Leader Dogs:
These organizations are just a few examples of the many seeing-eye schools and programs available to people who are blind or have other disabilities. Most are non-profit charities that provide their services for free, and are supported by donations.
If you are looking to support one of these pawrific charities that give new life and opportunities to the sight challenged, check out these ideas!
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