The first school for Seeing Eye Dogs was opened on Jan. 29, 1929 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Following a short-lived program in Germany after World War I, this guide school trained dogs to assist those in need, and since then has influenced programs all over the world, including the Texas A&M’s Aggie Guide Dogs and Service Dogs (AGS).
Today, service dogs are exposed to very thorough and extensive training, and their duties can extend much farther than assisting only the blind.
“When people see a service dog in a vest, they automatically think it’s a guide dog. When in reality, a huge percentage of service dogs assist people with all sorts of other medical, physical and emotional things,” said Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon, faculty advisor for AGS and Clinical Assistant Professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Some examples include mobile assistance dogs, which help people who have trouble getting around due to cerebral palsy, severe arthritis or other conditions, and hearing dogs, which help the hearing impaired by responding to sound with a certain behavior.
For instance, when they hear a knock at the front door, they might be taught to go sit in front of the person to alert them.