|Pic of Moss and Renton sitting together|
A colleague of mine asked me at work last week(after she watched the documentary) "Why did you want a German Shepherd and not a Labrador?" A good question and surprisingly not something I can recall anyone else asking. So far I've had two Labradors, two cross Lab Retrievers and Renton will be my second German Shepherd. For me, the best guide dogs breeds I have worked with has been the Cross Lab. Retrievers and my first Shepherd. (You read more about Tim on my articles page) It is very early days with Renton to include him in the top three, but already he is proving himself to be a very good guider.
However, there can be issues with German Shepherds that you just will not get with a Labrador. Shepherds don't transfer well from the trainer to the new handler as they are so loyal and can be very sensitive, [surprising for such
a large dog.] They also have some German Shepherd instincts that have to be worked on for example: chasing, territorial, rounding-up and exuberant protection of their handler.
So taking all of that into account, why a Shepherd? well, in my view they are fantastic guide dogs once they settle down. There is a bit of pain at the beginning, but after about a year that goes, so patience and understanding is essential. Their drive means that they always find the way and with such definite conviction that you are in no doubt that they will find it. It could be a doorway, pelican crossing, a set of stairs or a train. As someone who is totally blind like me, it gives me real confidence in where I am and where I am going.
They are also very intelligent and this can cause some confusion at first, as they like to use their initiative, plan ahead find a better route. A Labrador, on the other hand will wait until they are up against an obstacle before they decide which way to go, but a Shepherd is reading the road much further ahead constantly re-assessing the situation.
Another thing that they do, which I love, is their confidence to create space on busy pavements, not being afraid to use their physicality to ease people out the way.
Renton will very gently lean against other pedestrians and slowly push them aside if they are blocking our path. It is done so subtly, I'm not even aware that he's doing it. Last week when I was getting on the train at Glasgow Central Station, someone tried to jump in front of me to get on the train. However, they didn't reckon on Renton. He just stepped forward, leaned on them to push them back and then blocked the door way, whilst at the same time putting his two front paws on the train, giving me space and time to get on.
|Pic. of the said "two paws"|
How fantastic is that!
The commuter was left standing on the platform wondering what had happened If you have a Shepherd you can’t get shoved about by the discourteous members of the general public.
|Pic. of Rentons' big paw the same size as Ians hand|
So, to answer my colleagues question, these are some of the reasons why I’ve got a German Shepherd.