How Does A Guide Dog Know Where To Go?

Mystery Hour

Mystery Hour Question

How does a guide dog know where to go when it directs a blind person? How do they find their way? Are they like sat-navs?
Idris, Watford


** Definitive **
Name: Chris, Hemel Hempstead
Qualification: Used to have a guide dog
Answer: You have to tell a guide dog where to go. You learn the routes yourself. The dog walks in a straight line and sits at a curb. You then tell them whether to go straight on, left or right. Some routes, the guide dog will learn as they do them regularly. A friend of mine wanted to go to the newsagents, but the dog took him to the pub as he was so used to going there! There are issues around electric cars as the dog is told where to go by the blind owner and as the cars are silent, the person doesn't hear the car and tells the dog to go - there have been quite a few accidents in that way. One funny tale - a friend of mine lost his orientation in Euston station, asked a lady and she bent down and whisper the directions into the guide dog's ear!

** Definitive **
Name: Paul, Woking
Qualification: I once asked a guide dog trainer as I was interested.
Answer: You’re wrong, James. It’s not the guide dog that knows where it is going, it’s the owner. When they are going somewhere, the dog actually trains the owner to know how many paces, where to stop, what to feel for with his stick.  The guide dog is there simply to stop the owner bumping into things.

** Wrong **
Name: James O’Brien
Qualification: Someone’s asked it before!
Answer: Guide dogs have a specific number of places which they know the route for their owner. You can ask them to go to one of these, but couldn’t rely on you to take them anywhere else.