I learned about guide dogs for the first time when I was eight years old. I was so excited! I could tell a dog to take me to the store, and it would?

Even though my initial understanding was flawed, guide dogs are remarkable animals. They are trained to interpret the visual environment and work in tandem with their handlers to move safely and efficiently. They locate objects such as doors and curbs upon command, alert their handlers too dangerous traffic situations, and take directional instructions. The partnership between dog and handler seems like magic to those who observe a blind person navigating busy streets and crowded venues. But the magic is made up of many hours of training, lots of mistakes, and a willingness on the part of dog and handler to grow and learn together. This partnership begins with careful consideration on the part of a visually impaired individual who is thinking of getting a dog guide. The following list of questions and self-assessments may help you determine whether a guide dog is the right fit for your lifestyle.

Is a Guide Dog Right for Me?

1. Health Concerns

Is anyone in your home allergic to pet dander? Are you extremely close to someone who has a fear of large dogs? It is possible to request specific breeds, depending on the school from which y ou receive your guide dog.

If you are aware of any health concerns from the beginning, it will be much easier to find the canine partner that is right for your situation.

2. Your level of orientation and mobility (O&M) skills

Guide dogs increase the mobility and freedom of skilled travelers immensely, but they depend on their handlers for direction. Basic O&M skills are necessary

in order to get the most from the partnership. If your mobility skills are not what you want them to be, The Lighthouse in Tyler offers orientation and mobility lessons that are tailored to your goals. Whether you want to walk to the grocery store, possess more confidence in your work environment, or travel the world, basic (O&M knowledge provides you with a strong foundation from which to start.

3. Are there places you want to go which you have not gone with a cane?

Strong cane travel skills may not place every situation within your comfort zone. Confident hometown travelers may want to see the world. Someone who is wary of escalators may wish to navigate them with a dog. Discuss these goals beforehand with your O&M instructor, so that you will be prepared to present them to the trainers who will teach you to work with your guide dog.

4. Are you comfortable with increased visibility?

Partnership with a guide dog increases social interactions with strangers. This is a bonus for those who love to meet people, but it can be trying for introverts. If you suffer from social anxiety, practicing relaxation techniques and planning how you will respond in social situations involving your dog will alleviate a great deal of stress. It is also possible that sighted people may judge your actions with your dog if they do not understand what they see. In that case, clear and calm communication is essential. Assertiveness may become necessary, in cases where you and your dog are being denied admittance to places where you have a legal right to enter.

5. Are you prepared for the daily grooming and attention that a dog will require?

Dogs need to be bathed and brushed. This is enjoyable for some people, but if you are unaccustomed to the task, it is worth considering whether you are the type of person who is willing to set aside the time that is necessary to care for a dog.

6. Are you prepared to rearrange your routine and make sacrifices to enhance

the partnership?

Dogs need to be taken outside, whether the weather is cold, rainy, snowing,or hot. They need to go out at regular intervals, whether your health is poor, or you are sleepy.

7. Can you afford the food, veterinary care, and pet supplies that are required?

If money is tight, help is available. The guide dog school that you attend may be able to temporarily assist with expenses. Some veterinarians may offer discounts to those with service animals. Take a look at your budget, and shop around beforehand, so that finances will not be a roadblock to your guide dog. While these considerations may seem obvious, the day-to-day activities of maintaining a dog-friendly household are worth some reflection. A little planting can lead to a long and happy partnership between you and your dog.

If you are a guide dog owner, are there considerations you would add to this list?

Is there anything you know now that you have a dog, that you wish you had known beforehand?


Blog contributor: Jena Moffet