"Not just simple rote-learners, guide dogs have to be able to recognize what one situation has in common with another and react accordingly. They have to perform spectacular feats of disobedience. And they usually have to do it all without reinforcement because their blind handlers, nine times out of ten, don’t know what it is they’ve done."
Although German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers are the most familiar guide dog breeds, any confident, friendly, intelligent and willing dog, large enough for the harness but small enough to lie comfortably under a bus seat is eligible. Boxers, smooth-coated Collies, Poodles, Dobermans, Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are increasingly finding employment as guides, as are their hybrid offspring.
Breed differences aside, successful guide dogs have an innate confidence that nurtures their unusual ability to solve problems in stressful situations without consistent positive reinforcement.
But is problem solving breed specific? Next week I'll post comments from experienced blind handlers who've partnered with different breeds. They'll relate, first hand, the differences in ways breeds solve guide work problems.
In the meantime, read my other posts and articles about guide dogs:
- Bark magazine's - The Making of a Guide Dog: From Puppy to Partner
- History of guide dogs including photos of the very first dog, Rolf, trained to lead a German soldier after WWI (Surprise! Rolf was a German Pinscher)
- Morris Frank, the first American to receive a dog, a female German Shepherd named Buddy
|About 60 - 70% of working guides are |
Labrador Retrievers like this fellow.