International Guide Dog Day Date in the current year: April 24, 2024

International Guide Dog Day International Guide Dog Day is observed annually on the last Wednesday of April. It was created to pay tribute to the dogs that provide opportunities for greater independence and social interaction for blind and visually impaired people.

Guide dogs, also called seeing-eye dogs in the United States, are service dogs that help blind or visually impaired people navigate various obstacles. Archaeological evidence suggests that dogs have been common companions for the blind for millennia, although it is unclear whether they have been used specifically as guides all this time.

The first schools for training guide dogs were established in Germany in the early 20th century. They provided guide dogs to enhance the mobility of World War I veterans who had been blinded in combat. In 1927, American dog breeder Dorothy Harrison Eustis described one of such schools in an article for The Saturday Evening Post. Her article was read to Morris Frank, a blind young man from Nashville, who wrote Eustis asking where he could get a guide dog. Two years later, Eustis and Frank co-founded The Seeing Eye, the first guide dog training school in the United States.

Not all dogs can be trained as guide dogs because not all dogs have the right temperament and trainability. Golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, and their crosses are most likely to be successfully trained as guide dogs. Other common guide dog breeds include German shepherds, standard poodles, and labradoodles.

In addition to leading their handlers around obstacles, guide dogs have other positive effects on the lives of blind and visually impaired people. They help their handlers build confidence, provide companionship, encourage their handlers to exercise more, and even make social interactions easier. Many guide dog owners see their dogs as more than just service animals; for them, guide dogs are loyal friends and cherished family members.

International Guide Dog Day was created by the International Guide Dog Federation (IGDF), a UK-based association of more than 90 member organizations from 35 countries that train and provide guide dogs to blind and visually impaired individuals. Its date was chosen to commemorate the establishment of IDGF on April 26, 1989.

The main goals of International Guide Dog Day are to recognize all the hard-working guide dogs around the world, celebrate the support, companionship and joy they bring to blind and visually impaired people, and raise awareness of the importance of providing access to guide dog services. Since 2020, the holiday has had one more objective: to find ways to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on guide dog training and return to the pre-pandemic levels of 3,000 guide dogs being trained annually.

You can celebrate International Guide Dog Day by participating in one of the many events held by IGDF and its member organizations or even organizing an event of your own. Other ways to observe include learning more about guide dog breeds and training, educating yourself on guide dog etiquette (i.e. how to interact with someone’s guide dog), donate to or volunteer for a guide dog training nonprofit, adopt a failed (“career change”) or retired guide dog that needs a new home, and post about the holiday on social media with the hashtags #InternationalGuideDogDay and #GuideDogDay.

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