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Guide dogs: training, costs and suitable breeds

Guide dogs

It is well known that dogs with appropriate training can do much more than just give paws or lie down on command. This is especially true for guide dogs. After all, these special assistance dogs, after their training, are able to guide people with visual impairment safely through the public and thus enable them to participate independently in everyday life.

What makes a good guide dog, how the training of the animals is carried out and what costs are incurred for the acquisition, you will learn in the following. We also explain why feeding is so important for guide dogs and what you should pay attention to when feeding them.

The tasks of a guide dog

The tasks of guide dogs have little in common with those of normal social or family dogs. This is because four-legged friends must guide their owner safely through familiar and unfamiliar surroundings, avoid obstacles and prevent any danger to people with impaired vision.

Guide dogs can, for example, search for a staircase, a door, a letterbox, a pedestrian traffic light or even a free seat in a bus on command. The owner gives the dog instructions for this purpose in the form of acoustic commands, such as "Show door".

A fully trained guide dog is capable of around 76 such acoustic commands, which should be practised again and again in everyday life through regular training. 

If the owner unknowingly puts himself in danger by giving a command, the four-legged friend refuses to carry out the command. This behaviour is called intelligent disobedience and is taught to guide dogs for the blind as part of their training.

What makes a good guide dog

In view of the great responsibility and the complex tasks a guide dog has, not every animal is suitable for the extensive training. 

In addition to a shoulder height of 50 to 65 centimetres, a prospective guide dog should have the following characteristics in particular:

  • Strong nerves
  • Resilience
  • Peacefulness
  • Intelligence
  • Working zeal
  • Sociability

Although there are basically no legal restrictions regarding the breed, in Germany mainly Giant Schnauzers, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, King Poodles and suitable crossbreeds are used as guide dogs.

Training as a guide dog

Training as a guide dog

The training of a guide dog is extensive and begins already in the puppy age. Suitable animals are first checked for their basic suitability. Among other things, the health of their joints and eyes is examined.

If the young four-legged friend has passed this aptitude test, he will join a sponsoring family. There he will be educated and socialized for about one year according to certain guidelines and will be tested again and again regarding his nervous strength and his behavior in dealing with people.

After the stay with the sponsoring family, the actual training as a guide dog takes place in a guide dog school. There he learns for up to twelve months everything he needs to know in his future everyday life. 

In the last part of the training, the guide dog finally gets to know its owner and trains together with him. In this way it is ensured that the guide team of dog owner and guide dog gets along well with each other and that communication will function smoothly in the future.

Cost absorption for guide dogs by the health insurance

Guide dogs count as so-called aids according to § 33 SGB V. This means that under certain conditions the statutory health insurance companies are obliged to cover the acquisition costs for the four-legged friend. 

In order to be eligible for the assumption of costs, the eyesight of the policyholder must not exceed five percent. In addition, the future owner must have enough space to keep the guide dog and be able to look after the four-legged friend independently.

Even though it is often difficult to obtain a permit in practice, an application should always be made if the above conditions are met.

The responsibility does not lie with the guide dog

Of course the work of the guide dog is connected with a lot of responsibility. However, this does not mean that the owner is released from liability. Just like with normal dogs, in the end the owner is always responsible for the behaviour of the four-legged friend. 

In particular, he must always be able to control his guide dog, give him the right instructions and follow the dog's manoeuvres correctly.

Special legal requirements for the keeping of guide dogs

Guide dogs are often an indispensable help for their owners in everyday life. For this reason, unlike normal dogs, they can be carried almost everywhere and have free access to supermarkets, public buildings and doctors' surgeries, for example.

In addition, they can be taken on the train free of charge, while for their conspecifics above a certain size, at least half the fare is charged. In addition, many local authorities waive the dog tax or at least offer a discount to holders of guide dogs.

Guide dogs in retirement

It probably goes without saying that working as a guide dog means a great deal of effort for the animal, which becomes increasingly difficult from a certain age. To ensure the safety of the owner and not to overload the four-legged helper, guide dogs for the blind do not work all their lives.

Usually the animals retire between the ages of seven and ten, either to a new family or as a second dog off-duty with their original owner.

Guide dogs and a species-appropriate diet

As the owner, you should be aware that everyday life for your guide dog is associated with a high level of stress. After all, your four-legged friend must be able to concentrate at all times and reliably obey your commands.

With a species-appropriate feeding you contribute considerably to the fact that your guide dog can carry out his tasks permanently without his health suffering. For this purpose, use a high-quality and easily digestible dog food as a basis.

In addition to a sufficient energy supply through a high-quality food, it is recommended to support guide dogs for the blind with special dietary supplements due to the special requirements in everyday life.

We advise you to supplement the daily diet of your guide dog with the following products from Bellfor:

Bellfor Shiimun Immune is a natural food supplement based on shiitake. In traditional Asian natural medicine, shiitake has long been valued as a medicinal mushroom. 

In Bellfor Shiimun Immune, together with other carefully selected ingredients such as spirulina and ginseng, it provides optimal support for the immune system, so that your guide dog can survive his everyday life despite stress without any consequences for his health.

Bellfor Fitness Powder provides your guide dog with all essential amino acids and also supplies him with valuable vitamins and minerals. The powder also consists exclusively of natural ingredients. Bellfor Fitness Powder supports your guide dog in regeneration and helps him to master his daily tasks in a concentrated and reliable way.

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