The Seeing Eye Guide Dog Birthday
Posted January 30, 2015
The first school for Seeing Eye Dogs was opened on January 29,
1929 in Nashville, Tennessee. Following a short-lived program in
Germany after World War I, this guide school trained dogs to assist
those in need, and since then has influenced programs all over the
world, including the Texas A&M’s Aggie Guide Dogs and Service
Today, service dogs are exposed to very thorough and extensive
training, and their duties can extend much farther than assisting
only the blind.
“When people see a service dog in a vest, they automatically
think it’s a guide dog. When in reality, a huge percentage of
service dogs assist people with all sorts of other medical,
physical and emotional things,” said Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon,
faculty advisor for AGS and Clinical Assistant Professor at the
Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical
Some examples include mobile assistance dogs, which help people
who have trouble getting around due to cerebral palsy, severe
arthritis, or other conditions, and hearing dogs, which help the
hearing impaired by responding to sound with a certain behavior.
For instance, when they hear a knock at the front door, they might
be taught to go sit in front of the person to alert them.
“Mobility assistance dogs can even be trained to do things such
as push an elevator button, open and close doors, and even pick up
car keys and credit cards off of the ground,” said Dr.
Another type of service dogs that have recently become popular
are PTSD dogs, or “emotional support.” These animals are taught a
wide variety of skills to assist people suffering from
post-traumatic stress disorders, and are often aids to
As you can imagine, these service dogs must go through vigorous
training in order to learn and perfect the necessary skills to help
their owner. For AGS, Dr. Blue-McLendon explains that there are two
stages of training the dogs must complete.
“They usually don’t start formal training, or ‘Stage 2’
training, until they’re about a year and a half years old, “ said
Dr. Blue-McLendon. “During formal training, they’re matched with a
partner that’s a good fit for the dog’s ability and personality.
This stage can take anywhere from 3-6 months, and they will still
need continual training and skill reminders for the remainder of
Before they enter stage 2, the puppies must earn “jacket
privileges,” which are achieved through the different stages in
their training. “Some of the first jacket privileges are
going to classes and retail stores, and the last one they achieve
is going to restaurants,” said Dr. Blue-McLendon.
As animal lovers, it is very tempting to go up and pet a service
dog when they are nearby. However, it’s important to remember that
service dogs are not pets, and approaching them may distract from
performing their important tasks. If you want to learn more about
the dog, politely approach its owner, who can then give you further
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be
viewed online at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk. Suggestions for future
topics may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org .
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