I frequently get asked when I am out and about with Nabisco”are you training him”? My usual response is “no, he is my working guide dog”. I feel the general public and even business owners are not able to identify a working guide dog. I understand that in instances where they ask me “is that your service dog”, they have the right to ask that question as outlined by the ADA, but I do find myself thinking “isn’t it obvious, he is a guide dog for the blind.” Maybe it is to me, but not others. So, I wanted to take a moment to explain the difference between a working guide dog and a puppy in training.
How do you identify a working guide dog?
A working guide dog wears a special harness with a long U shaped handle that the blind partner holds on to. This is now the dog and handler communicate about obstacles or changes in elevation. Different guide dog organizations issue different looking harnesses, but the general shape and concept is the same. No other service dog wears a harness that looks like this.
Nabisco’s harness looks like the one in the top two pictures. It has a white handle and a sign on it that reads “Guide Dogs for the Blind”. Some harnesses are made of solid leather, like the one in the bottom picture.
How do you identify a guide dog in training?
If you live in an area near a guide dog training school such as San Fransisco, CA, Portland, OR, or New York, you may see a guide dog in harness that is working with a guide dog trainer, but generally speaking if you see a dog wearing the special guide dog harness, they are most likely working for a blind or visually impaired person.
Guide dog puppies in training wear special vests to identify them and those being raised by volunteer puppy raisers for Guide Dogs for the Blind can be found in the Western States of WA, OR, CA, ID, NV, UT, CO, NM, AZ, and TX. These dogs wear a green coat that says “Guide Dogs for the Blind Puppy in Training”. Pictured to the left is the old puppy coat from Guide Dogs for the Blind from when I was raising. The picture to the right is one of the newer coats. They are still distinct, but do not have as large of a graphic on them.
Other guide dog training schools may have different vests to identify their puppies in training. The role of the volunteer puppy raisers in the making of these wonderful guide dogs is essential. They teach them basic obedience skills, good house manners, and socialize them to a variety of sights and sounds to prepare them for work as a guide dog.
So next time you are out and about and see a working guide dog or a puppy in training, you will know the difference. Please take a moment to read my previous blog post about what a guide dog does to learn more about how you can help a guide dog team or a puppy in training be more successful!