Golden Retrievers are historically in the top three breeds of choice for assisting blind and sight impaired individuals. The assistance dog is trained to negotiate obstacles so a person with sight challenges can become more independent.
Training curriculum for assistance dogs includes a wide range of skills including; obstacle identification, response, socialization, personality and behavior, and communication ability. Goldens are naturally well suited because of their desire to be companion dogs and to assist. They are also well suited as guide dogs because they are strong enough to communicate with body language.
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When an individual is sight impaired they are able to respond to sound and touch. A golden retriever can be trained to use both sound and body language to communicate the need to navigate around obstacles.
Vision loss can be frustrating and limits an individual’s ability to safely participate in activities they once enjoyed alone. A guide dog can reopen doors which were closed as a result of losing vision.
This was the case for Joyce Williamson. She gradually lost her vision due to retinitis pigmentosa. After she made a decision to work with a guide dog she soon reclaimed her independence, self confidence, and her personal safety. Williamson said, because of her guide dog, she has her “freedom’ and ‘she has given me back my quality of life and opened doors that were beginning to shut” as a result of vision challenges.
Joyce Williamson found the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind and decided they were the best choice for her. “Students live on campus, working and bonding with their dogs, for 25 days.” She said.
Story and Image used with permission from Guide Dog Org Foundation Stories Press Release