All Official “Seeing Eye” Dogs Are Trained in Which State?
Guide dogs, commonly referred to as “seeing eye” dogs, play a crucial role in assisting individuals with visual impairments in their daily lives. These highly trained dogs provide independence, mobility, and companionship to their visually impaired handlers. But have you ever wondered where these exceptional animals receive their training? The answer lies in the state of New Jersey, where the oldest guide dog training school in America, The Seeing Eye, has been operating for nearly a century.
The Seeing Eye, located in Morristown, New Jersey, was founded in 1929 by Morris Frank and Dorothy Harrison Eustis. Morris Frank, who was blind, was introduced to the concept of guide dogs during a trip to Switzerland and was inspired to bring this innovative idea to the United States. Dorothy Harrison Eustis, a dog trainer and breeder, shared his vision and together they established The Seeing Eye.
Since its inception, The Seeing Eye has been the pioneer in the guide dog training industry. It has played a significant role in shaping the standards and practices followed by guide dog schools around the world. The organization has a strong commitment to providing highly trained guide dogs to individuals who are blind or visually impaired, enabling them to live more independent lives.
The selection and training process at The Seeing Eye is rigorous and comprehensive. It begins with the careful selection of breeding stock, which includes purebred Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds. These breeds are known for their intelligence, temperament, and trainability, making them ideal candidates for guide dog work.
Once the puppies are born, they are placed with volunteer puppy raisers who provide them with a loving home and basic training until they are around 14-16 months old. During this time, the puppies are socialized and exposed to various environments, ensuring they develop into well-rounded dogs.
After the puppy-raising stage, the dogs return to The Seeing Eye’s campus in New Jersey for formal training. The training program lasts approximately four months and is conducted by professional instructors who have extensive experience in working with guide dogs.
The instructors at The Seeing Eye use positive reinforcement techniques to teach the dogs a wide range of skills. These skills include navigating obstacles, stopping at curbs, avoiding distractions, and responding to various commands. The dogs are also trained to recognize and react to potential hazards, ensuring the safety of their handlers.
Throughout the training process, both the dogs and their handlers work together as a team, gradually building trust and understanding. The instructors carefully match each dog with its future handler based on their individual needs, lifestyle, and personalities.
Upon completion of the training program, the visually impaired individuals arrive at The Seeing Eye to meet their new guide dogs. They undergo an intensive two-week training course, during which they learn how to work with their guide dogs effectively. Skills such as maintaining proper leash tension, giving clear commands, and reading the dog’s body language are taught to ensure a successful partnership.
The Seeing Eye provides ongoing support to its graduates, including follow-up visits, phone consultations, and seminars. This commitment ensures that both the guide dogs and their handlers receive the necessary assistance to maintain a strong and lasting bond.
Q: Are all guide dogs trained at The Seeing Eye in New Jersey?
A: No, there are other guide dog training schools across the United States and around the world. However, The Seeing Eye is the oldest guide dog school in America and has been a pioneer in the field.
Q: How long does it take to train a guide dog?
A: The training process typically takes around four to six months, including the puppy-raising stage and the formal training program.
Q: Can guide dogs help with more than just navigating obstacles?
A: Absolutely! Guide dogs provide not only physical assistance but also emotional support and companionship to their visually impaired handlers.
Q: How are guide dogs funded?
A: Guide dog organizations rely on donations from individuals, corporations, and charitable foundations to cover the costs of breeding, training, and providing ongoing support to guide dog teams.
Q: Can anyone apply for a guide dog?
A: Individuals who are blind or visually impaired and can demonstrate the ability to care for and work with a guide dog are eligible to apply. Each applicant’s suitability is assessed on an individual basis.
In conclusion, The Seeing Eye in New Jersey is the birthplace of guide dog training in the United States. For nearly a century, they have been at the forefront of providing highly trained guide dogs to visually impaired individuals, empowering them to lead independent lives. Through their exceptional training programs, The Seeing Eye continues to make a profound impact on the lives of those in need of visual assistance.