Pros and Cons of a cane
- Obstacle detection - you know something on your path when your cane bump into it.
- Extra effort on user
- Can't hug your cane after work
- Social empathy - people seem to avoid or not notice you
- Much lower cost and no up keep - no extra mouth to feed, no poop to pick up
- No additional training
Pros and Cons of a guide dog
- Obstacle avoidance -you might not even aware something on your path because the dog guide you around the obstacle
- Extra safety margin
- Companionship - your best friend after work
- Social ice-breaker - people want to talk to you about your dog
- Like having baby who never grow up
- Higher cost and more up keep
- Additional training beyond OM training
A Typical Guide Dog
- Most guide dog school use Lab Retriever
- puppies spent their first 12 - 18 months with puppy raisers for basic training
- If a dog is accepted in to guide dog school, it would receive 4 to 6 months of professional guide dog training
- Usually matched with a handler at the age of 2
- A guide dog typical service life is 8 to 10 years
- Retire as a pet
Guide Dog Schools
There are about dozen of guide dog schools in the US. Some are regional schools which only accept clients from their nearby area. Other schools accept clients from all over even from oversea. The training program is free for qualified clients. Some schools have home training only while others have home, residential and combo training program. The following link has more info on each guide dog school.
Typical Training Program
- Training program usually 3 to 4 weeks in length
- Learn to walk on various side walk and street crossing
- Day and night walking
- Move around in various type of building and business establishments.
- Ride in bus, subway, train, and private car.
- learn to use escalator, elevator, and stair
- Dog care, dog obedience and counter-distraction training
- Access law
A trained guide dog should...
- Guide a handler from curb to curb and avoid any obstacle along the way
- Stop at the curb, top and bottom of stair and wait for command
- Cross the street on command but only if safe to do so
- Find stair, door way, empty chair, etc
A guide dog can't...
- read traffic lights. The handler must decide when to cross the street
- get you home when you are lost
- take you to a place without direction
- defend you if you are underattack
- eat, drink, poop, or play when in harness
- All 50 states have guide dog access law
- The access law guarantees the guide dog can accompany the hander to any place that is open to public. These places including restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, and all types of public transportation without additional charges.
- Taking a guide dog to zoo, dog parks and amusement pards are not recommended.
People are very curious about guide dog. When I go out, I was frequently asked the following questions.
- What is your dog's name? I usually say her name is secret.
- Are you training the dog? May be I don't look blind enough to use a dog?
- May I pet you dog? My dog wears a vest with the word " Working dog, Do not Pet", at least they ask before petting my dog.
- How does the dog know where to go?
- How do you pick up the poop when you can't see?
Three Laws of Guide Work
1. A guide dog must not injure his partner or, by inaction or distraction, allow his partner to be harmed.
2. A guide dog must obey any command given to him by his partner, except where such command would conflict with the first law.
3. A guide dog must have fun while doing his job as long as such fun would not conflict with the first and second law.
Adapted from Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics
Guide Dog Muddy
Guide dogs are like people, they all have their unique personality. The above were textbook description of a ideal guide dog. The reality is that a dog's personality is not moded from a cookie cutter, they are not robots running on a same program.
I received my first guide dog, Muddy, in 2009. She is not an ideal guide dog as described above. She is easily distracted by other dogs, small animals, and foods while we out walking. The school has been very helpful by sending instructor out to my home to work with us to resolve the problem. They even took Muddy back to the school for 3 months for retraining. Although Muddy's guide work has improved somewhat but she is still far from ideal. It just seem Muddy is in constant training mode. With all that said, she is still very helpful in my daily life.