Guide dogs are among the most loyal and loving animals to grace this planet, and if you have the opportunity to care for a retired guide dog, you might find the perfect companion. There are a few things to consider, however, to make sure you are providing the best home for your retired guide dog. You must continue their training, experience and proclivities that have been ingrained in them since puppy-hood. Retired guide dogs are bred, raised and trained for one specific purpose, and these behaviors are never “unlearned”.
How to Care for a Retired Guide Dog
The first thing you should know about retired guide dogs is that they will always operate under the concept of “intelligent disobedience.” When guide dogs are trained, they are taught to assess certain situations for safety. For example, if a guide dog were walking with his blind human companion down the street and she directed him to cross, the dog would refuse the command if there was too much traffic. Owners of retired guide dogs must remember that their pets will refuse a command if they feel that there is a potential for danger. The owner shouldn’t get angry if this is the case.
The owners of retired guide dogs should also be familiar with the commands they used as a guide dog. If you haven’t been appraised of those commands in advance, call the agency where you adopted the guide dog and ask for a list of commands. If you try to use the wrong command, your guide dog will not obey and you might get frustrated or angry with your pet for no reason. Guide dogs are intensively trained and their behaviors aren’t easily changed. It is much easier to conform to their training rather than try to get them to learn your own commands.
Another aspect that owners of retired guide dogs must consider is routine. Guide dogs are used to a fairly regimented routine that is in place purely for the safety and convenience of the person with whom that dog was originally paired. Toilet breaks, feed times, walks and other matters are ingrained into the dog from an early age and can be difficult to break. You might want to find out information about the schedule and routine to which the guide dog is accustomed and try to follow it as much as possible.
Some retired guide dogs are removed from their programs because of health reasons. For example, a dog with hip displasia will not be able to continue with the guide dog program and might therefore be put up for adoption. If your retired guide dog has been removed from the program for health reasons, it is in your best interest to be aware of those problems and how to treat them. Likewise, your veterinarian should be aware of any problems so that subsequent visits will be effective.
Raising and caring for a retired guide dog can be a rewarding and positive experience, but you do have to realize that these dogs are not ordinary. Learn how to work with them and — more importantly — how to challenge them. They will want to follow orders and to learn new tricks or practice the tricks they’ve already been taught.