We call ourselves “dog owners,” but should we really think of ourselves as “owners”? Can you really own a living creature? Should it perhaps be “dog carers”? Maybe that’s a discussion for some other time. Whatever term we use, we are in many ways our dogs’ carers. We think of them as pets, extensions to our human families, but of course not all dogs are simply pets. Many work for their human companions and indeed the close relationship between mankind and dogs almost certainly started that way.
A relatively recent development in the working relationship between dogs and their human carers makes caring very much a two-way traffic. The dog becomes a carer for its carer! The first example of this relationship to be developed was the well known Guide Dog for a blind person. Having described this as recent development we should view that as relative to the long history of the human/dog relationship, which probably goes back thousands of years, because it is known that guide dogs were being used at least as long ago as the middle of the 16th Century.
The first formal training schools for guide dogs were set up during World War I in Germany to help soldiers returning from the front having been blinded in action. The United States followed the German example in the early1920s in Minnesota where John Sinykin had begun training guide dogs. He later founded Master-Eye Kennels and is credited with being the first trainer of guide dogs for the blind in America. In 1929 The Seeing Eye was founded in Nashville, Tennessee. One of its founders was a resident of Nashville, Morris Frank, who is claimed to be America’s first guide dog owner. Mr Frank had trained in Switzerland in 1928 with his German Shepherd, Buddy.
In Britain, the first trained guide dogs were handed over to three veterans of World War I who had lost their sight as a result of combat wounds on 6th October 1931. The dogs were Judy, Meta and Folly. The Guide Dogs for the Blind association was subsequently founded and began its work in 1934. The association’s first permanent trainer was a former Russian military officer, Captain Nikolai Liakhoff who had come to Britain in 1933.
Since then the association has gone from strength to strength and is now the acknowledged source of trained guide dogs and handlers in Great Britain. It is also recognised as a worldwide centre of excellence in guide dog training.
Working as a guide dog is no longer the exclusive province of one breed. The German Shepherd held the monopoly for many years and continues to give sterling service in the role. Today they are joined by Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Dobermans, Rottweilers and other large breeds. For work as guide dogs the larger breeds are usually chosen because their height at the shoulder relates well to the harness length and to the height of a person.
Temperament is important too, of course, and many smaller breeds are chosen for other types of personal assistance work, of which more another time. This has been just a quick look at Guide Dogs and for anyone wishing to investigate the subject in greater depth there is a wealth of information to be found on the Internet. This is just a reminder that a dog can be much more than a pet!
Content provided by Pete Hopper, of Write For You, Freelance Copywriter UK.
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|Sunday, September 26. 2021|