Most people who see a person with a guide dog or a helper dog don’t realize exactly the time and effort that goes into training one. In fact, it costs around $50,000 per dog to finance everything that is needed so this service can be provided free-of-charge to the individuals in need.
National Guide Dog Month is here to raise awareness about the life-changing help that guide dogs can give to blind and disabled people, while also seeking to raise funds to help supply guide dogs to everyone who needs them!
History of National Guide Dog Month
National Guide Dog Month was originally inspired by Dick Van Patten, who was a famous actor from the 1930s until the 1980s. Van Patten was so impressed by the training and intelligence of guide dogs that he began helping to raise awareness for the needs which would supply funding for guide dog schools. Van Patten was particularly associated with the Guide Dogs of the Desert organization in Palm Springs, California.
In 2008, Dick Van Patten was able to enlist the support of the Petco Foundation, allowing their retail stores to be used in aid of fundraising for the cause of training guide dogs.
The first National Guide Dog Month was celebrated in May 2009 as a benefit to non-profit guide dogs schools who were accredited by the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF). During this year, proclamations by Governors of several different states were made in support of the event, including California, Arizona, Florida, Mississippi and others.
Over the years, various celebrity spokespersons have engaged in support for the cause of National Guide Dog Day in a range of capacities. These have included actors, musicians and models, such as Paula Abdul, Nicolette Sheridan, Katrina Bowden, Eva LaRue, Omar Miller and others.
Originally scheduled for the month of May, National Guide Dog Month was moved to September in 2010 in support of other national fundraising drives. Now, the event is celebrated annually with all sorts of awareness campaigns, events, activities and more!
How to Celebrate National Guide Dog Month
Those who are interested in ways to observe and celebrate National Guide Dog Month have a whole 30 days in which to do it! Get creative with unique ideas for raising awareness or even raising funds in honor of this important event:
Make a Donation to a Guide Dog Charity
Several different guide dog training facilities operate as charities to raise the funds needed to support and train guide dogs for those in need of them. Many of these function on a county or state level, so check out the ones in the local area to find out more about specific needs.
From a national or international perspective, the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF) is the one most closely related to the celebration of National Guide Dog Day. Certainly there are other legitimate training facilities and charities to support guide dogs as well, such as some of these:
- The Guide Dog Foundation. This organization has been helping train guide dogs for more than 65 years and is ranked as a top-rated charity.
- Southeastern Guide Dogs. Serving the southeastern United States since 1982, this charity has overseen the well-being of thousands of dogs over the years.
- Guide Dogs of America. Founded more than 70 years ago, this charity was originally called International Guiding Eyes.
- Guiding Eyes for the Blind. This organization has more than 60 years of experience working with and training guide dogs to help those who are visually impaired.
Volunteer to Train Guide Dogs
Some select people who are good with animals and have time in their schedules may consider volunteering to become a trainer for guide dogs. The training programs are very rigorous, with guide dogs instructors that may go through three years of apprenticeship as well as an evaluation and testing process. But for those who love animals and want to help them take care of the visually impaired people they can, looking into becoming a guide dog trainer could be an exciting opportunity for celebrating National Guide Dog Month!
Learn Important Facts About Guide Dogs
Raising awareness for National Guide Dog Awareness Month can mean sharing the excitement by learning some interesting facts to pass on to friends, family, coworkers and more. Check out some of these facts to connect with around the topic of guide dogs:
The first guide dog after WWI was issued to a blinded veteran in 1916. Within the next year, at least 100 more such dogs were enlisted to help.
On average, it takes around 18 months for a guide dog to fully complete their training and be ready for service.
Guide dog breeds are chosen for their temperament and ability to be trained. Some of the most popular breeds are Golden Retriever, Labrador, German Shepherd and Labrador Retriever.
The career of a guide dog is only 7-10 years, which means there is a constant need for new guide dogs to be trained for service.
Host a National Guide Dog Month Event
Schools, scout troops, community organizations, youth groups, libraries and many other centers in the local community can participate in National Guide Dog Month by planning to host an event in their area. Since one of the most important parts of the month is raising awareness, the first order of business might be to contact a local branch that trains guide dogs and inquire about how to host an event.
Perhaps the organization would provide some dogs and trainers to attend the event, helping people experience the dogs and understand a bit more about what goes into training them. This could be a fun and educational event opportunity for children and adults alike. And, while planning, perhaps it would be effective to arrange some fund-raising activities to benefit the charity for guide dogs, like a silent auction, bake sale, car wash, raffle and more.
National Guide Dog Month FAQs
How much does a guide dog cost?
While it costs approximately $50,000 or more to train and prepare a guide dog, through generous donations they are typically provided for free to the user.
How are guide dogs trained?
Guide dogs are trained with a combination of repetition and praise, in a process which mainly takes around 5-8 months.
Do guide dogs retire?
Yes, guide dogs often retire after about six or seven years of work.
How do guide dogs help the blind?
Guide dogs assist their owners or handlers by navigating through places to reach their destinations with greater speed, confidence and safety.
Why are most guide dogs labradors?
Labradors are highly trainable, able to transfer loyalty and affection from one person to another and they have a positive reputation in communities.