The history of Guide Dogs

This week (7-13th August) is International Assistance Dog Week, which marks the celebration and recognition of the service dogs who are trained specially to provide care and assistance to those with physical or mental limitations.

The International Assistance Dog Week (IADW) organisation was born due to the unrelenting efforts of Marcie Davis, the CEO of Davis Innovations, who as a paraplegic of 35 years has had a service dog for over 16 of them.

There are several different kinds of service dogs, including guide dogs, hearing dogs, mobility dogs, seizure alert/response dogs, psychiatric service dogs, and autism dogs. There are also other types of dogs with jobs that help people, including therapy dogs and emotional support animals.

Focusing in on the amazing work that guide dogs do, we look back on the history of how we have reached the point where we are today.


Labradoodle Assistance Dogs. Image Source.

Using dogs for assistance can be traced all the way back to first century AD murals which depict dogs leading blind men. There are many other examples which have been documented over time; however the first attempt to train specific dogs to guide the blind came at around 1780 at the hospital for the blind in Paris.

The modern guide dog story begins in the First World War, where thousands of men were left blinded by poison gas. It was German doctor Dr Gerhard Stalling who noticed the behavioural traits when leaving a dog with a blind patient. He opened the world’s first guide dog school for the blind in August 1916.

It was not until 1929 that the teachings from Dr Stalling made it to the USA, opening a Seeing Eye School in New Jersey. From there it was expanded world wide- to Switzerland in 1928, then into the UK in 1931.



Statue commemorating the founding of the guide dogs for the blind association at The Cliff, New Brighton, Wirral, England in 1931.Image Source.

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act defined a service dog as “any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.” Prior to this, the service dog had a very poorly defined job description.

Guide dogs for the blind had become an accepted use of the dog in a service capacity since 1929 in the United States, but the use and training of a service dog for a role other than a guide dog for the blind first began to emerge in the 1960’s.

The role of the service dog has continued to expand to include social dogs for children on the Autism spectrum in 1996 and, in 2012, dogs for veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress as a result of combat trauma.

Thanks to these organisations that have committed trainers and unwavering support, uncountable numbers of people have had their lives transformed by guide dogs. The history has continued to work for increased independence for the blind and partially-sighted the world over.

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The importance of pet insurance

The pet insurance industry is rapidly growing, as pet owners realise the importance of meeting their duty to care for their pet promptly if they become ill. But what many people don’t realise is that pet insurance can do much more than just help you with the costs of vets’ bills!

Of course the main reason most owners explore insurance is for the vet fee cover, and depending on your choice of policy you can expect assistance in meeting the cost incurred by accidents, illnesses and other conditions. Accident-only policies are generally the cheapest choice, but as the name indicates you are only covered if your pet is in an accident and there are generally no additional benefits.

Mid-range policies typically have 365 day limits on illnesses or injuries, meaning that you can only claim for an illness for injury for a year after it first manifested itself, after which exclusions may be applied, meaning that you won’t be able to claim for it again.

These mid-range policies do often have some benefits beyond vet’s fee cover, such as public liability which can protect you financially if your pet injures someone or causes an accident, or damage to property.

Claims for compensation in public liability cases can stray into the millions of pounds, so it really is worth looking into getting yourself this kind of cover.  Check that your household insurance doesn’t already provide public liability cover for your pet.

Top-tier cover has fewer caps and limitations, as well as bigger allowances for each condition. The additional benefits are wide-ranging, from help with advertising costs if your pet goes missing to compensation if your holiday is cancelled due to a pet’s illness.

It’s worth taking the time to look into each individual policy to see what suits your pet’s needs and your budget.

Our dogs and cats are more than just pets, they’re part of the family. There is no NHS for pets, it’s all private medicine and it’s an owner’s responsibility to ensure that any care their furry family may need can be paid for. This is why pet insurance is so important: your pet’s treatment needn’t be limited by your finances.

This blog was guest written by our lovely friends at Animal Friends Insurance, get in touch to hear more about what they offer.

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Hydration Month [Infographic]

Throughout July, PetSafe® are focusing on the importance of hydration for your pets- our study found that  59% of pet owners are unsure how much water their pet should drink per day, and 81% admitted to thinking panting or sweating was a sign of dehydration which is a common misconception. Whilst cats and dogs do pant and sweat through their paws to regulate their body temperature- when your pet becomes dehydrated things to look out for are tired and sluggish behaviour and weak and unsteady on their feet.



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