Supporting Guide Dog Training
A society where everyone can live healthy and happy.
There are about 380,000 visually impaired in Japan. Around 3,000 of them need guide dogs, but only 984 exist (as of March 2015).
Our society is aging, and it is estimated that more and more people will suffer from eye problems. There are not enough guide dogs today, and in the future the demand will rise even more.
That's why we, as a company that supports eye health, decided to help the numerous people that need guide dogs.
In April 2015, we had donated a total of 30 million yen to the cause. Our support is not only financial; we also work towards raising awareness of guide dogs in general.
About Guide Dogs
A guide dog is a dog that guides a visually impaired person, so that they can walk safely and comfortably. The guide dog wears a harness, which the person holds on to, and warns obstacles and ups or downs on the road.
A guide dog can also find doors, ticket machines, ticket gates, bus stops, elevators, escalators, and stairs. Japan generally has narrow streets and crowded places, and it is said that guide dog training is more demanding in Japan than abroad.
Training Guide Dogs
Raising one guide dog costs about 2.5 to 3 million yen. Most of that money comes from donations, and it is with the support and time of many individuals that guide dog training is possible.
Guide dogs are born from mothers that have the aptitude for being a guide dog. We work with Finland and send staff there to find suitable dogs for breeding, and operate as the go-between for exchanging frozen semen between Finland and Japan.
Once a potential puppy is born, it spends the first two months with its mother and siblings.
Then the two-months-old puppy is entrusted to a volunteer family called "puppy walker" until it turns one year old. There it will receive lots of affection and love, and it will learn to trust humans.
At the age of one, the dog enters a training facility to learn to follow commands, to lead visually impaired people, and the routines of a normal life.
At the age of two, the dog either becomes a guide dog — or, if it is deemed unsuitable, becomes a "carrier change dog" and becomes a pet dog for a volunteer family.
At the age of ten, a guide dog usually retires, separates from its partner, and leads a peaceful life at a volunteer family.
What Can You Do?
You hear stories about guide dogs not allowed in taxis, hotels, or restaurants. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has approved bringing a guide dog with you at all times, but still refusals happen.
When taxi drivers answered a questionnaire about guide dogs, we learned that many of them think of guide dogs as pets. On top of the low awareness of guide dogs, the manners of some untrained dogs and their owners make it hard for guide dog users to get a hospitable reception.
If you ever see restaurants or taxi drivers denying access to guide dog users, please inform them about guide dogs. A little help goes a long way.
If you see a guide dog user who might need help, go ahead and ask if your assistance is needed. A guide dog averts most dangers, but cannot for example tell whether traffic lights are red or green. It is up to the visually impaired to listen to the traffic lights' sounds and decide when to cross the street.
The best help you can give to the guide dog itself is to ignore it. You should not touch it, play with it, give food to it, or scare it in anyway. When wearing a harness, it is on duty and shouldn't be disturbed. Please keep these things in mind as well.