How do guide dogs know where to go?

Phaeton

Guru
Location
Oop North (ish)
Followed a guy & his dog onto the station then off again at the other end. It led him up the stairs stopping at each flight so he could feel where the edge was. Quite amazing but how does it know where to go, this might be a learnt route but how about somewhere new?
 

twentysix by twentyfive

Clinging on tightly
Location
Over the Hill
Telepathy?
 

Slick

Veteran
I suppose it's only obvious if you know the answer, but I thought everyone would have known the answer to this one.
 

YukonBoy

The Monch
Location
Inside my skull
The owner knows the way. The dog is there to help prevent the owner having a bad outcome from a hazard they were unaware of. Plus it gives a visible notification to others that the person is visually impaired.

I have a couple of blind friends who are married to each other. I ride a tandem with either of them from time to time. Their sense of where they are is amazing to behold. Sean has this ability to navigate a busy pub with many hazards to the toilet after only being shown the way once before.

When the dogs are in their harness they know it is work time. When they aren't in their harness it is play time, and boy do they love to play. When in the harness it is best not to distract the dogs no matter your good intentions. Their guide dogs are called Sammy and Chip.

When on the tandem they bring their white sticks, which fold on the rear rack. That is then deployed when we stop somewhere like a pub. The dogs haven't learnt to pedal on the front yet.
 

annedonnelly

Girl from the North Country
Like @YukonBoy says. The dogs aren't magic or mind readers.

An owner gets training with each new dog and sometimes will get extra training if there's a new route that they want to cover. Owners have to learn where crossings are, etc. Though if you go somewhere regularly the dog will learn - it might automatically head into a regular shop or cafe for instance.

Dogs cost a huge amount to train and can only work until they're about 10 years old. And, of course, there aren't enough to go round so it's a massive problem for a guide dog user when their dog has to retire.
 
Guide dogs are remarkably intelligent and capable. I was following a Facebook feed of a guide dog (presumably written by its owner rather than the dog itself - they aren't that intelligent) that lived on a canal boat with its owner. He is retired now (due to health problems), but they have a good memory and a reasonable understanding of how to solve problems by themselves, and where things are that they have been to before.

Also heard another tale from a blind man who had to negotiate London just after the 7/7 attacks. His route back to Euston was through Tavistock Gardens, which was closed due to the bomb exploding on the bus. Despite being in an unfamiliar city, the dog managed to negotiate its owner on an alternative route back to the station.
 
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