Guide dog

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Monument in the Berlin Zoological Garden
Blind man with his guide dog in Brasília , Brazil
Young Labrador Retriever with harness in training to become a guide dog
A young Labrador Retriever is learning to guide a blind person

Guide dogs for the blind , colloquially known as guide dogs , are specially trained assistance dogs that are designed to ensure that blind or visually impaired people can find their way around safely, both in familiar and unfamiliar surroundings. Guide dogs are in accordance with § 33 SGB V legally as aids . The guide dog “on duty” can be recognized in Germany by its white harness. This is a traffic protection sign that obliges other road users to be particularly careful and with which visually impaired pedestrians, as with the use of a guide dog, at the same time fulfill their duty of precaution, to make their limited safe mobility recognizable to other road users and to compensate for this in some cases. Like the dotted yellow armband, a white dog harness must not be used in traffic. About one to two percent of the blind in Germany have a guide dog. Well-trained guide dogs enable their owners a high degree of individual mobility , security and independence and thus represent a decisive factor for the social participation of blind people.


There are only a few sources about the beginnings of dogs being used as companions for the blind, but there are individual references to such use. So it says in the late medieval Strasbourg begging order from 1464 to 1506:

"In future no beggar should have or raise a dog unless he is blind and needs him."

In October 1916, the German Association for Medical Dogs, founded in 1893, handed over the first systematically trained guide dog to the war blind man Paul Feyen.

Lead team

A pair of dog owner and guide dog is known as a lead team. While the dog handler acts as a navigator, the guide dog takes on the role of the pilot by executing acoustic commands, so-called audio signals, for example straight ahead , to the left , show door , crossing the street . A good introduction must ensure the harmonious and functioning cooperation between humans and dogs. The responsibility for the team rests with the people. The guide dog can only act intelligently if the person gives correct instructions and maintains control (orientation). The human has to follow the dog's evasive maneuvers fluently so as not to disturb the dog's work or even make it impossible.


When instructed to do so, a guide dog searches for doors, stairs, zebra crossings, telephone booths, mailboxes, free seats, for example on buses or trains, and much more. He indicates what he has found by stopping in front of it.

Guide dogs are able to guide their humans safely by avoiding obstacles such as street signs, parked cars or pedestrians and by indicating road boundaries, stairs, doors, pedestrian crossings. A well-trained guide dog will bypass any kind of obstacle or indicate it by stopping. The guide dog also shows ground obstacles such as puddles or potholes and height obstacles such as barriers or signs, i.e. also obstacles that are not for him alone. A trained dog can master around 76 audio signals, but with appropriate training it can learn a lot more. So that these skills are not lost, the owners are encouraged to occupy themselves intensively with their dog and to use and train the audio signals regularly and correctly.

In the event of imminent danger, for example in traffic, the guide dog must be able to refuse an order, so-called intelligent disobedience. This ability is a semi-autonomous act of the specially trained dog, in that it places avoidance of dangers above obedience at its own discretion. Through disposition, socialization and training, a guide dog has an early warning system for dangerous situations, which is linked to an action to be carried out within the training. On a busy street, for example, the dog refuses to give the command to go forward because it has learned to protest against this dangerous situation during training.


Only peaceful, intelligent, strong-tempered, strong-nerved, hard-working and healthy young dogs come into question. In addition, the animals must pass an intensive health test in which joints and eyes are examined, among other things.

The first aptitude tests are already in puppyhood performed with about eight weeks, in particular it created as puppy tests by experienced guide dog trainers. Then suitable puppies are given to so-called sponsored families, in which the dogs are socialized for about a year . Good guide dog schools are characterized by the fact that they select, guide and control their sponsoring families specifically for this task. The young dogs are confronted with a wide variety of events and situations during their first year of life. The focus is always on nerve stability, fearfulness, aggressive behavior, hunting instinct and good behavior in dealing with people.

There are no fundamental restrictions on the breeds that are eligible for training. However, dogs with a high potential for aggression may not be trained as guide dogs. Royal Poodles , Giant Schnauzers , German Shepherds , Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers are preferred . Mixed race are also eligible for training. The shoulder height of the animals should be between 50 cm and 65 cm.

Guide dogs are trained in special guide dog schools using various methods of behavioral training. In Germany, the costs of training are covered by health insurance companies. The training itself can take up to twelve months.

Bond between humans and animals

A blind woman learns to be guided by a guide dog on a test course.

The social bond between humans and dogs is the most important prerequisite for a well-functioning lead team. Building a mutual basis of trust is particularly important in the first year of the team: If the bond is not established during this time, people and guide dogs often remain unsafe. Close contact with the animals is also important later in order to ensure the bond. In couples with a sighted partner, it happens that the dogs develop a more intensive relationship with the sighted person if he or she is more involved with the animal and plays games that blind people cannot.

Assumption of costs

A trained guide dog costs around € 20,000 to € 30,000. In Germany, the guide dog is an aid within the meaning of the health insurance law § 33 SGB V and the costs are covered by the health insurance companies if the relevant requirements are met. In Austria too, guide dogs for the blind are granted financial support from public funds in accordance with Section 39a of the Federal Disabled Persons Act if the relevant requirements are met. For further legal regulations see also assistance dog .

See also

Films and literature

  • Partner on four paws - The Guide Dog Video-DVD / CD, 74 min., Color, Federal Republic of Germany 2004
  • Walter H. Rupp: The guide dog - the new training method. Non-fiction book on guide dogs. Verlag Müller Rüschlikon, 1987, ISBN 3-275-00913-3
  • Georg Riederle: The guide dog - aids with a soul . Reha-Verlag GmbH, 1991, ISBN 3-88239-196-0
  • Tanja Kohl: Training guide dogs for the blind . Kynos Verlag , 2005, ISBN 3-938071-03-6
  • Silvana Calabro-Forchert: The guide dog . Wissenschaft & Technik Verlag, 2002, ISBN 3-89685-315-5
  • Buddenbrock, Andrea Freiin von (2003) The dog in the rescue service. A manual for training and action, p.128 Independent problem solving and "intelligent disobedience" . Mürlenbach / Eifel: Kynos-Verl. ISBN 3-933228-74-3
  • Rehmann, Sibylle: About the German guide dog system: Training centers and tests for guide dogs . Univ., Munich 2000 (Diss.).

Web links

Commons : Guide dog  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Guide dog  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. § 2 Paragraph 1 and 2 Driving License Ordinance (FeV)
  2. Threat of fines also in case of negligence according to § 75 no. 2 in conjunction with Section 2 Paragraph 3 FeV
  3. 1464 to 1506. Strasbourg Begging Regulations. In: Winckelmann, Otto: The welfare system of the city of Strasbourg before and after the Reformation up to the end of the sixteenth century; a contribution to German cultural and economic history, part 2. New York; London 1971 (repr. Of the Leipzig 1922 edition), p. 84ff.
  4. 1916 - Blind Veterans
  5. ^ SG Aachen · Judgment of May 29, 2007 · Az. S 13 KR 99/06
  6. Section 39a of the Federal Disability Act (BBG), as of November 7, 2011
  7. Education media database