Fortean Times - - Contents -

The myth

When the blind hu­man and the see­ing dog reach a road cross­ing, the dog stops, and waits. When the dog is sure that it’s safe to cross, it gives a tug on the lead to let the hu­man know that it’s time to go.

The “truth”

Ac­cord­ing to guide dog char­i­ties and or­gan­i­sa­tions for the vis­ually im­paired, this is one of the most wide­spread mis­un­der­stand­ings con­cern­ing see­ing-eye an­i­mals. I sup­pose it’s fairly ob­vi­ous when you think about it, but I con­fess I never had thought about it: it’s not the guide dog who tells the hu­man it’s safe to cross – it’s the hu­man who tells the guide dog. Ca­nine eyes can­not be trained to read traf­fic lights, for one thing. The hu­man uses hear­ing (of traf­fic, other pedes­tri­ans, or cross­ing sig­nals) to judge when it’s safe to cross, and tells the dog to walk on. How­ever, guide dogs are trained in the art of “se­lec­tive dis­obe­di­ence” or “in­tel­li­gent dis­obe­di­ence”, and will refuse to obey an or­der if they can see that it would be dan­ger­ous to do so. Nor do the guide dogs lead their han­dlers on jour­neys; they are led by the han­dler’s sig­nals. So what are the dogs for? Chiefly, to guide their hu­mans around ob­sta­cles (such as street fur­ni­ture, and low over­hangs), and to stop at cer­tain places where a de­ci­sion is needed, such as road cross­ings, stairs and lifts.

Sources­­crosites/spon­sor-a-puppy/blogs/2015/may/ the-myths-and-facts-around-guide-dogs;­­style/ guide-dogs-for-the-blind-mis­con­cep­tions; www.tric­i­ ten-myths-about-guide-dogs-1.433167; http://www.kidz­ ar­ti­cle/1117-how-guide-dogs-work


If you are a guide-dog user – or in­deed a guide dog – please do let us know which bits we’ve got wrong.


A reader who is also a po­lice of­fi­cer asks about chalk (or tape) out­lines of mur­der vic­tims; he’s never seen one, and sus­pects that th­ese days such con­tam­i­na­tion of a crime scene would be frowned upon. But, he wants to know, was there ever a time when chalk out­lines did ex­ist, or are they pure Hol­ly­wood?

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