The labrador retriever, much more than a family pet
The>Labrador Retrievers have become one of the most popular breeds used today as both assistance dogs and dog guides for the blind. The skills necessary for these two working jobs are extremely varied and are physically and mentally demanding, nevertheless, the Lab has once again proven that its popularity is based on much more than its good looks!
Dog Guides For The Blind
Nobody will forget the amazing story of the brave and courageous yellow Lab named Roselle, who on the disaster of 9/11, guided her vision-impaired owner, Michael Hingson, down 78 stories in the World Trade Center’s Tower One.
The pair exited from the choking smoke, dust and fumes just moments before the entire building collapsed on that horrible day. Roselle was bred, raised and trained by the Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, California. As amazing at it sounds, she was just doing her jog that day.
A position originally dominated by German Shepherd Dogs in the early 1900s, dog guides for the blind now include a large percentage of Labrador Retrievers, as well as Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs and Lab-Golden Mixes.
The Lab has risen to popularity in this service mostly because of their highly-qualified work ethic needed for such services: a stable temperament, a willingness to work, a moderate size and weight, and a low-maintenance coat.
The type of work an assistance dog can perform is perhaps only limited by a trainer’s imagination. Labs are trained to assist those with limited mobility by picking up dropped items such as pencils, credit cards and keys.
Some dogs are trained to alert hearing-impaired handlers to a knock at the door, a baby crying, or in the case of a child, the sound of the school bell signaling a class change. Other Labs are trained to help disabled individuals to lean on and hold onto.
Some Labs even alert handlers to oncoming seizures before they happen and provide assistance during a seizure. Labrador Retrievers have been taught to pull wheelchairs, turn lights on and off, and even remove the handler’s socks before he or she goes to bed.
The benefits of an assistance dog can be seen at many levels. One of the greatest benefits is that people with assistance dogs regain a sense of independence, as well as an increase in self-esteem and self-worth because they can rely on the dog to help them, rather than have to rely on other people.
Assistance dogs can also serve as ice breakers. Disabled individuals frequently feel shunned because the general public feels uncomfortable in their presence. The company of an assistance dog, particularly a friendly Lab executing amazing skills for the disabled individual, is often the attraction that can facilitate conversation, social interaction and the formation of friendships.