Guide/Service Dogs and Exercise

One thing I’ve always wondered about guide or service dogs is; how do they get exercised?

Labsand Golden Retrievers are two of the most common breeds used as service dogs. But both breeds are Retrievers and Retrievers are renowned for generally being high energy.

Do they just choose low energy individuals or is there some form of exercise plan in place?

My father was partially sighted and was offered a guide dog. When he was told that it needed to be walked at least two miles, and preferably five, a day, he politely declined the offer.

My friend was an assistant for a person with cerebral palsy. It was her responsibility to walk the dog several times per shift.

We’ve raised two Labs and two Goldens for Guide Dogs for the Blind. They all got two walks a day, but nothing excessive compared to our pet dog and nothing like five miles a day. One of the things they are bred for is the ability to be fine without constant motion. I took them to work from time to time and they were fine under my desk with a walk at lunch and a few pee-breaks.
We have a yard, but not that big a one, and none of them went crazy.
One of the great things about guides is that they know that their behavior has to be different when their jacket goes on and they are working.

Energy level depends on the specific dog, but you’d swear they were trained to fall asleep if the handler stops moving for 60 seconds. Most are okay with a few play sessions a day, and letting them into a fenced yard to run around. I’ve only heard the 2 to 5 miles for breeding stock and really high energy guides like a typical German Shepherd.

The most obvious thing about this: harness off, dog tail is wagging, dog usually wants to say hi to anyone nearby. Harness on, tail stops wagging, dog is all business and ignores people (ideally. Individual results may vary.)

A friend with a guide dog is also US record holder for the blind marathon and an experienced hiker. Autumn (his current dog) gets plenty of exercise.

We’ve raised a few puppies for autism, mostly going to kids.

I think they kind of prefer the dogs to be lowish energy. We have not been encouraged to overly exercise the dogs, beyond walks and normal play.

Our last dog was pretty high energy- he was paired with a high energy kid, and that has been going apparently great.

The autism dogs have to meet standards, but they are not as high as seeing eye dogs.

I raised a happy & healthy golden retriever and she wasn’t high energy. She was high interaction but if we walked a half mile every other day and I paid attention to her all day long, she did not get annoying and beg for exercise or anything. She would have been in heaven if I was dependent on her for every move, regardless of how much movement that was.

Retrievers can be active dogs - they’re a sporting breed after all - but they are more focused on being people-dogs than their own need for activity.

My two little mutts I have now are crazy assholes about getting exercise. Like barking and climbing on top of me if they haven’t been active enough in a day. No manners! Not like a lovely purebred retriever :slight_smile:

First, consider that the dogs don’t actually sleep under a desk all day. They get some exercise just doing their job of guiding their person around. Keeping in mind that the blind don’t drive cars, guide dogs in a big city with mass transit do a fair bit of walking around every day.

Second, being able to provide some play time for the dog is part of being able to care for one.

I’ve worked with two people who used guide dogs.

One of the people was a fairly active young man, active enough that his german shepherd guide dog got plenty of exercise just being with him, along with a fenced yard and dedicated play time.

The other was a middle-aged lady who was becoming frail. Again, her dog got some exercise just walking to and from bus stops, but in foul/cold weather I had dog-walking duties (harness off, just a regular lease when he was with me) and let me say, even off duty Ebony kept a brisk pace and I suspect he was the one giving me exercise (not that he was ever out of control, we are talking about an extraordinarily well trained dog after all, but he did like to set the pace). Her husband had taken over doggie downtime and would take the dog out to a nearby park for serious playtime with a frisbee. Very strange to watch that - throw the frisbee, the dog goes tearing after it just like any normal dog but as soon as he encountered a bike path he’d come to a screeching halt, look both ways to make sure no “traffic” was coming, then resume his headlong dash for the frisbee. He was off-duty but the training is very deeply ingrained.

Speaking with the lady, she said giving the dogs downtime was very important, they needed time to just be dogs and not guides.

Also remember that part of the “high energy” in a lot of dogs is that they are bored. They don’t have anything to do, so they get into stuff. Guide dogs don’t have that problem, they very much get intellectual stimulation just doing their job. They get their minds exercised as well as their bodies.