Guide dogs are good at doing all sorts of things for their person, but I think what they are best at is breaking barriers between the sighted and sight-impaired persons. If I see a blind person with a guide dog I will probably go up to them and say « Hello, what a nice guide dog you have, what’s his name? Can I pet him? » If I see a blind person with a cane I won’t say anything at all and will try to stay out of their way. The social isolation of blind persons without a dog must be really hard to live with.
And to illustrate that point: yesterday at Igor’s follow-up at the guide dog school in Toulouse I met a man who was getting instruction on how to work with his dog, a nice Golden Retriever who just completed his training. This man looks like he is 45 years old, tall, very healthy and nice looking, but mostly blind and mostly deaf (as a result he doesn’t talk well either). Trying to interact with him was really difficult, but I’m glad I got to shake his hand and tell him how lovely his dog is. I hope this dog will utterly change his life for the better, because people will approach him more, and the dog will give him the drive to get out and be more visible in society.
Also this helped me understand why Igor must have 100% recall with his whistle. I’ve been teaching it to him, and his recall is 50% with the whistle, not great. I didn’t see the point so I didn’t push it. Especially since Igor’s recall when I call his name is very close to 100%.
What I hadn’t considered is what happens if he’s placed with a person who doesn’t speak well or not loudly enough? He must learn the whistle and (on his trainer’s advice) I’ll teach it to him with the best training device known to man and dog: the hot dog!