Most venerated and famous of all service animals are guide dogs, who are thoroughly trained to help visually impaired people carry out their daily routines and maintain independence while watching for environmental hazards. Not all breeds have the personality or inclination to be a guide dog, but there are a lot that are perfectly suited to it.
However, it will depend heavily on your lifestyle, your home, and other factors too. For now, let’s take a closer look at the best guide dog breeds out there and what makes them good for the job.
The 10 Best Guide Dog Breeds
1. Golden Retriever
One of the most famous guide dogs, the gregarious Golden Retriever is perfectly suited to being a guide dog. They’re very intelligent, eager to please, and don’t have a mean-spirited bone in their bodies. Goldens don’t typically inspire fear in people, so they’re great to put others at ease too. While friendly, Goldens are very devoted to their owners.
2. Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retrievers are one of the top guide dogs for many of the same reasons as the Golden. Labs were bred to hunt and obey commands for hundreds of years, and today, they do the same thing as guide dogs. They’re trainable, obedient, and are happiest when surrounded by people—preferably you, though! Labs shed less than Golden Retrievers, too.
3. Standard Poodle
The standard-sized Poodle is one of the favored breeds to train guide dogs, famed for their crackling intelligence and high trainability. Poodles also have a low-shedding coat sometimes called hypoallergenic, but they do shed from time to time. These curly darlings are also known for having pretty long lifespans for a big dog.
4. German Shepherd
This classic K9 dog has serious brains. German Shepherds are sometimes regarded as the world’s smartest dog breed, going toe to toe with the Poodle. Their intelligence, their strong work ethic, athletic physique, and intense loyalty make them great guide dogs. They need lots of training to weed out aggressive tendencies and have high exercise requirements, though.
5. Border Collie
The gentle, bright Border Collie is a sweetheart that makes a mellow but alert and very smart guide dog. Border Collies tend to glue themselves to their people and are known to be high in dog intelligence, used for ages to herd sheep and other livestock.
6. Australian Shepherd
Another born herding dog, the Australian Shepherd has the loyalty and work ethic of a German Shepherd but in a smaller package. They have seemingly infinite energy levels that easily keep up with disabled people with high activity levels. Aussies are another breed renowned for very high intelligence and trainability, so that doesn’t hurt either.
7. Chesapeake Bay Retriever
Affectionately called Chessies by their devotees, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever isn’t traditionally used as a guide dog because they’re a mite more protective and territorial than other breeds used. However, they’ve been successfully trained in many individual cases because they’re known to be very trainable, intelligent, and loyal to their family.
Dobermans might not be your first idea for a guide dog breed, but they’ve actually been used for over a hundred years! They learn and obey commands very quickly and reliably, which has made them a popular police dog, and plus they’re very athletic and capable of leading in crowded settings.
Boxers are stout and devout puppies with a penchant for service, known to work as both guide dogs for the blind and alert dogs for epileptic people. Their keen emotional sensitivity makes them excellent for soothing anxiety, as they love nothing more than to cuddle up to their person.
10. Airedale Terrier
Also called the King of the Terriers because it’s the largest Terrier of all, the Airedale has a long working history in roles like a hunter for nobility and sniffing dogs for law enforcement. They have a scrappy terrier enthusiasm combined with a larger dog’s intelligence and trainability—the perfect traits for a guide dog.
Guide dogs take over $40,000 worth of training and medical costs to raise, so it only makes sense we’d choose the dogs best suited for the job. Things all these dogs have in common are intelligence, loyalty, obedience, and a strong work ethic.
Featured Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock