Why are Labradors used as Guide Dogs?

When you think of a guide dog, Labradors are likely to pop-up in your mind. You can find abundant images of Labradors leading their blind owners to safety. What is the reason that Labs are believed to be the best for such demanding positions? Labrador suitability as a guide dog is due to few of its characteristic features like its temperament, talent, and intelligence. Labradors are not just loyal and loving companions but proactive thinkers and quick learners. The qualities combined with the dog’s ready and strong physical traits, they predispose the breed to succeed as guide animals.

Labradors are large-breed dogs that have the size and gait to walk comfortably with humans. They can easily maneuver around obstacles and may even go to the extent of putting themselves between their handles and the obstacles such as a speeding car. High on intelligence, energy desire to please, and loyalty are a few traits that make them easily trainable. Instances like stopping in front of obstacles to alert the handler while walking along are common to this breed. Also, their lively and caring nature often develops a great bond with the owner. Such characteristics easily make it amongst the most suited profiles for a guide dog.

How good are they when it comes to following instructions?

Capable of accomplishing almost any task that the trainer or owner might ask Labrador dogs. They follow the instructions very carefully. They need proper training for a specific time extent. Labrador possesses essential work ethics as well as a higher level of intelligence. They have both the qualities of learning multiple commands and also discerning when to follow the instructions. In other words, Labs must even know when they should not obey the orders. E.g., a guide dog should know the meaning of ‘go forward.’

At the same time, they must be intelligent enough not to follow the command when doing so can lead the owner directly to the ongoing traffic. Labs have a personality that makes it fit for the job. These dogs love to accompany their masters around the town. Their intuitive and curious nature can force them to take a small walk out of the house or go through some adventurous activity.

Why are they the best fit as a guide dog?

Labradors are responsive to any sensory input that they encounter. They keenly notice all potential dangers and obstacles. Labs are particularly cautious until the risk is over, and they protect their owners from any known risks. They sometimes even use their Physical strength to save their masters from possible threats. Active in mind and body, retrievers also serve their masters daily. Labs have thick coats and muscular bodies, which is due to their origin in Newfoundland.

Some factors making them a good guide dog are:

Smart Noncompliance

Guide dogs stop at a crosswalk or intersection and look out for the right time to walk. As neither the master nor the dog can see the traffic lights, it is only the dog’s smart decision to walk his master through the road safely. A Labrador knows when to disobey a command to protect its master from any potential harm.

Awareness Above the Head

They can identify any obstruction above their owner’s head. As a guide dog, it can recognize the obstacles that are above the head, which is not detectable by the cane. A common example is a tree branch that hangs low, well-trained Labs are smart enough to make sure that their handler doesn’t get hit by the obstacle.

They Get Permission Almost Everywhere 

In spite of several rules and regulations that forbid animals in hotels and public places, many countries allow guide dogs to visit almost every place where their owners go. It is only just a few places like Intensive Care Unit, where the owner want to visit a patient, it is quite evident that the dog will not be allowed inside due to infection and hygiene control policies.

They behave differently when they are in duty hours & when they are off-duty

Like most guide dogs, Labradors behave differently if they are wearing a harness. They are alert and work as a professional in uniform. However, when they don’t have the harness, they behave very differently. They can socialize, play, and relax, just like any other dog in your house. It is essential to understand not to pat them randomly when their harness is on them, and they are on-duty. If they are distracted, it can be really dangerous for their handler. Their handlers heavily rely on them for the job at hand. 

Alerts & Guiding Nature

Most often, when a handler walks with a Lab to a place, the dog stays curious and alert. It will stand in front of any obstacle that comes their way during the walk. It does so to alert the handler about a possible danger lying ahead. It will do anything to protect and safeguard its owner, which includes risking its life.

How do Labradors become guide dogs?

The official trend of using the Lab as a guide dog began after the First World War. Many soldiers who were poisoned and wounded had to return from the front line. There was a doctor from Germany who discovered that Labradors could help blind people in avoiding obstacles. One day the doctor noticed that a Labrador was taking care of a blind patient.

Preparing any Retriever to become a guide dog is a long term and a continuous process. It has to start at an early stage and continues for a lifetime. Dogs breed with facilities that also train them. For around eight weeks, they often live with someone who raises puppies, which can be a family, couples, single adults, senior citizens, etc. The volunteers take puppies to their homes and keep them there for about fifteen to twenty months.

The dog raisers nurture and groom in a lively nature and affectionate environment. They go through a basic obedience course before they start traveling to public places like grocery stores, malls, and public transits.

What Jobs Can Labradors do as a Guide Dog?

The tasks performed are varied. They work as hearing dogs that let their owners know when someone knocks at the door or help perform their daily tasks like unloading the washing machine after hearing the buzzer. They can perform multiple functions for their owners that enable them to live their life independently without relying on others.

Here are some cool jobs that a trained Labradors can perform:

  • Fetch things for their owners, such as keys, wallet, or phone.
  • Intelligent enough to collect the posts rather than attacking the postman.
  • Can open and close the doors when needed.
  • Tend to stop children from causing a tantrum.
  • Also known for protecting children by stopping it from running on the road.
  • Smart dogs that can play games. Some even play pairs with their owner.
  • Try to converse, although it is limited as they cannot speak.

Other responsibilities that a Labrador can uptake

Apart from being guide dogs, Labs are capable of up taking several different jobs as they can serve as:

  • Service dogs for the armed forces
  • Drug and bug detector
  • Medical detection dogs
  • Search and Rescue operations

Concluding Remarks: Labradors are an Exception

There are exceptions always so they can generally perform well as guide dogs if provided with the right training. It can be a good choice if you need a skilled and faithful guide dog. If you do not need the services of a guide dog, you can still pet them for their loving, affectionate, and playful nature. Trainers and puppy raisers get help to prepare retriever for a life of service and spending time with an adorable puppy.

Labradors have always been working dogs. They are bred to fetch things for their owners, and since then, they have gone into many lines of work. The first job in which it found its way was that of a guide dog. It started in the early 20th century, not long after the first guide schools arose with German Shepherds. Labradors were the next to join the suit, and now the breed makes a significant percentage of the world’s guide dogs.


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