Michael Answers Your Questions About Dogs… First Question Please?

“I love speaking to audiences because I get the opportunity to learn as much from them as I hope they learn from me.  Part of my learning comes from the many questions I get asked during my speeches.  I love Q&A sessions and encourage them whenever possible from my event sponsors.

I have put together many of the most commonly asked questions I encounter in my travels.  These questions run from serious to whimsical, but everyone is important and every questions reflects the curiosity of lots of people.

My plan is to post a question  and my answer each day as long as I have a list of questions to work from.  If you have questions after reading any of my posts please pass them along and I will do my best to answer them over time.  Each week I will give a copy of “Running With Roselle” to one of the persons whose question I choose, so please send along your email address so I can get in touch should I use your question.

Ready?  Here we go with the first question.”

“What are the main criteria that make a great guide dog?”

There is not one “main criteria”.  There are some breeds that make better guide dogs.  The Labrador retriever is the most common breed used today.  Labs have proven to be quite versatile.  They can live in all kinds of weather.  The are mostly unflappable in most any situation.  They are also tolerant of people and are good about not being distracted by animals or other things around them.

For the longest time German Sheppards were the guide dogs of choice for many schools.  Over the past few decades Golden Retrievers and Labs have become the most common breeds.  Now also schools have successfully experimented with cross breeding the Lab and Golden Retriever.  Poodles have been incorporated into the mix at several guide dog schools.  At present the two most popular breeds are Labs and the Lab Golden Cross.

Having said all the above Labrador Retrievers and the Lab-Golden cross continue to be the most successful breeds today.  Their success rate is roughly %50.  Yes, that’s right, only half succeed as guide dogs.  This is due to the stringent job requirements and duties a dog must fulfill if it is to guide a blind person successfully.  If a dog is to be a successful guide it must not be easily distracted.  It must learn how to properly react in many different situations including dangerous ones such as when a car is coming at it.  These dogs must not be afraid of loud or sharp noises.  They must not relieve themselves at will, but only when given permission to do so.  They must be willing to guide in all types of situations, places, and they must be able to thrive in all kinds of weather.  Since guiding is something these dogs take very seriously they must be able to cope with stress.

The other side of all this is that the guide dog user must learn to be a good team builder.  The person must constantly praise the dog.  I believe any good guide dog user learns to create and keep strong the team.  We must be good leaders, teachers, cheer leaders, coaches, communicators, and, in most situations, we must learn to be the problem solvers of the groups.

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