History of National Guide Dog Month


Dogs have been domesticated for around 150,000 years and have been coexisting with humans since back then. Ancient artifacts and scrolls show instances where dogs were guiding their human companions. The first attempt to train guide dogs was in Paris at the ‘Les Quinze-Vingts’ hospital for the blind. The founder of the Institute for the Education of the Blind ‘Blinden-Erziehungs-Institut’ in Vienna, Johann Wilhelm Klein, wrote about guide dogs in his book published in 1819. This provides evidence that dogs have been helping humans for a long period.

After the First World War, when many soldiers came back blind, the use of guide dogs peaked. The demand for this service prompted the opening of the first school for guide dogs in Oldenburg, Germany. Dog trainer Dorothy Harrison Eustis is attributed with bringing the first guide dog to America, and Eustis later established the ‘Seeing Eye School’ in Morristown, New Jersey.

Dick Van Patten was the inspiration behind National Guide Dog Month. He admired the ability of these dogs to improve the standards of life for those living with blindness but he was also aware of the time, energy, and cost that went into training these dogs. He decided to take action and raise awareness and monetary support for guide dog schools. Van Patten owned a pet food company that underwrote all costs for the promotion of National Guide Dog Month. The first guide dog fundraiser was in Southern California with the support of the Petco Foundation. Thanks to Van Patten’s effort, many guide dog organizations have now become beneficiaries of these month-long events.

Credit: NationalToday.com