Until now, the public consensus had been that blind guide dog handlers simply gave their dogs addresses and then zoned out for the duration of their journey. However, a new study has been published in which researchers were not able to teach dogs to use Google Maps.
“I am frankly shocked,” said Sharon Jones, a New Yorker who has often helped guide dogs find their way. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told one of those pups which way to go after their person asked me where something was. I just always assumed the dog was in charge because it can see.”
Perhaps even more surprisingly, the study also found evidence to suggest that guide dogs are not able to judge traffic patterns, determine cardinal directions or carry people out of burning buildings.
“It’s been a really interesting lesson for me that guide dogs can’t use Google Maps,” added Jones. “I guess we have that in common. I’m more of an Apple Maps fan too.”
To learn more, we caught up with Shawn Patrick, who works with a guide dog named Tawny. He explained, “People are often surprised that I can brush my teeth on my own, so I guess it’s not surprising that there’s a misconception that guide dogs do all the work. In reality, blind handlers take care of the wayfinding, maintain the dog’s training and are ultimately responsible for getting the team from point A to point B. Tawny’s great for navigating around obstacles and trip hazards, and he can help me find things like doors, but for the thousandth time: He can’t use Google, maps, or Google Maps.”