References to guide dogs date at least as far back as the mid-16th century; the second line of the popular verse alphabet "A was an Archer" is most commonly "B was a Blind-man/Led by a dog"[1] In the 19th century, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in her verse novel Aurora Leigh, has the title character, in describing her conversation with Lady Waldemar, remark "The blind man walks wherever the dog pulls / And so I answered" (Book V., ll. 1028-9).

The first guide dog training schools were established in Germany during World War I, to enhance the mobility of returning veterans who were blinded in combat. The United States followed suit in 1929 with The Seeing Eye in Nashville, Tennessee (relocated in 1931 to Morristown, New Jersey). One of the founders of The Seeing Eye was America's first guide dog owner, Nashville resident Morris Frank. Frank was trained with Buddy, a German Shepherd, in Switzerland in 1928.

The first guide dogs in Britain were German Shepherds. Three of these first were Judy, Meta, and Folly, who were handed over to their new owners, veterans blinded in World War I, on 6 October 1931. Judy's new owner was Musgrave Frankland. [1]. This was followed, in 1934, by the start of The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association in Great Britain.

[edit] Breeds

A group of Labradoodle Guide and Assistance Dogs.

Early on, trainers began to recognize which breeds produced dogs most appropriate for guide work; today, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and German Shepherds are most likely to be chosen, though by no means does this mean other breeds, such as Yorkshire Terriers, Poodles, Collies, Vizslas, Dobermans, Rottweilers, Boxers and Airedale Terriers are not. Crosses such as Golden Retriever/Labrador (which are popular due to both breeds' known intelligence, work-ethic, and early maturation) and Labradoodles (Labrador/Poodles bred to provide dogs with less shedding for those with allergies to hair or dander) are also common.

 
 
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