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National Seeing Eye Dog Day

On January 29th of each year, National Seeing Eye Dog Day is celebrated to pay tribute to all the hard working dogs that have been trained to help those who are visually impaired, deaf, or have other ailments that can be made more bearable with trained canine companionship.

Seeing eye dogs are trained to be the eyes and ears of their owners. Without them, many people would be confined to their homes and would not be able to live independently, have mobility, or live productive, dignified lives.

Dogs and their owners are usually matched through a careful screening process. The owner and the dog must be able to live and work as a unit. Their personalities have to work well together and their has to be a genuine love for each other.

Not only is the dog trained to care for it's owner, the owners is also taught how to manage and care for his or her dog. Before they are allowed to live and work together as a unit, the dog and it's owner has to go through a month long bonding program which has to take place before they are allowed to venture out into the world together.

Most seeing eye dogs are chosen very carefully when they are young. They are selected because of their intelligence, personality, loyalty, and their ability to work with people. When they are about a year and a half old, they are put through a rigorous harness training program to learn what to do on curbs, sidewalks, and crossing streets.

Seeing eye dogs have to be trained to understand the difference between work and play. This is very important because when a dog leaves home with its owner, one mishap can cause devastating consequences. So dogs are trained to know that when a harness is put on, it is time for serious work. They are also trained to know that when the harness is taken off, they are free to relax or play.

A dogs height and how their bodies are built are very important considerations for seeing eye training. They have to be strong and sturdy but gentle and obedient at the same time. The breeds most often used are German Shepherds and Golden and Labrador Retrievers. Other breeds that are sometimes used include Boxers, Collies, Standard Poodles, Terriers, and Rottweilers.

The history of training special dogs to help visually impaired people date back many years. Dorothy Harrison Eustis, an American living in Switzerland, heard about a German run program for training seeing eye dogs and wrote an article about the program for the Saturday Evening Post.

The article, entitled The Seeing Eye, appeared in the Post in January 1927. Morris Frank, a visually impaired man from Nashville, Tennessee read the article and decided to go to Switzerland to meet Ms. Eustis and get a guide dog of his own.

While in Switzerland, Mr. Frank was partnered with a German Shepherd named Buddy and when he arrived back in Nashville, he, with financial help from Ms. Eustis, started the first guide dog school in the United States called "The Seeing Eye."

Many countries have established laws that allow guide dogs to accompany their owners to places that are open to the public. In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act ensures that seeing eye dogs or dogs that assist people with other types of disabilities are not barred from Restaurants and other public facilities and under the Fair Housing Act, landlords cannot discriminate against tenants who have guide dogs even if they have a no pets policy in place.

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