Every year, the last Wednesday of April is commemorated as International Guide Dog Day by the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF). This special day pays tribute to those highly trained dogs that serve as the eyes of their visually impaired owners, and also aims to break through prevalent social biases about such impairments.
From birth through their first encounters with their owners and up until their retirement, training a single guide dog requires the dedicated efforts of not just one, but a large group of people – not to mention the dogs themselves. Socialization training, for example, is a must in many countries for guide dogs1.
In order to celebrate the efforts of guide dogs and the people who work with them, Samsung Newsroom visited the Samsung Guide Dog School, which has been training up guide dogs since 1993. Take a look at the photos below to learn more about the stories of these special companions.
* The following photos and videos have been captured using the Galaxy S21 Ultra
Over 90 percent of guide dogs currently serving are retrievers, a breed that has been recognized for their disposition, affinity, and health. Amongst them, Labrador retrievers account for the largest number of guide dogs by merit of their adaptive, gentle and loyal natures.
We filmed three-week-old puppies and soon-to-be guide dogs with the Galaxy S21 Ultra. The device’s 108MP high-resolution camera vividly captures the soft fur of these adorable puppies – it is almost as if you can hear their calm breathing right from the photos. Of course, eating and sleeping are of utmost priority for these animals at this stage of their lives.
② Puppy Walking
Once they have grown somewhat, the next stage of their guide dog lives commences: puppy walking. At around seven weeks of age, the puppies are entrusted to volunteers and undergo various different socialization activities. The puppies’ walkers care for them for around a year and help with the different training procedures at home and at nearby parks, as well at local restaurants and cafes.
“Puppies normally learn to interact with people at about three to 15 weeks of age,” explained Taejin Park, Director of the Samsung Guide Dog School. “The new experiences they gain during this period play an important role in determining their lifelong personalities.”
We were able to capture some puppy walkers and their companions, aged eight weeks old, on a visit to the School for a training session. The puppies captured below are just one week into their extensive training process.
Life of a Guide Dog Single Take/https://player.vimeo.com/video/541516799
③ Guide Dog Training
After their year-long ‘puppy walking’ phase, the guide dogs in training return to the School for the formal training process. This training lasts around six to eight months, and the puppies learn such basic skills as sitting, waiting and toilet training, as well as such key behavioral traits as concentrating, learning to avoid obstacles and walking to target destinations.
Life of a Guide Dog Super Slow Motion/https://player.vimeo.com/video/541518485
Once they have finished the entire training process, the puppies will undergo a test to ascertain whether or not they are fit to become guide dogs. But don’t be disheartened: puppies that fail the test then go on to become regular companions or work as ‘demonstrators’ within the guide school.
“Truly, there’s no such thing as ‘success’ or ‘failure’ when it comes to undertaking guide dog training,” noted Park. “All the puppies ultimately live long, happy lives thanks to their kind natures and adaptive personalities.”
④ First Encounter with a New Family
Becoming a new member of the family they are to serve is an important step in any guide dog’s life, which is why the dog-to-owner matching process is extensive and rigorous. Factors such as the owners’ personality, vocation, walking pace and health condition are all taken into account when matching guide dogs to potential owners.
We paid a visit to a family to learn more about the life of a guide dog. Suhkjong Yu and his wife, Myeongji Sun, are both visually impaired and currently live with two guide dogs named Haedal and Jigu, as well as their two lovely daughters.
“It is the responsibility of the visually impaired to take utmost care of the guide dogs who support them so much,” said Yoo. “The chemistry between the owner and the guide dog is really important, as they are the ones guiding us to our target destinations in the safest way possible, avoiding every obstacle along the way.”
Guide dogs that retire after seven to eight years of service become rehomed with volunteers and go on to happily enjoy the rest of their lives.
1 Conditions may vary by country or region.