Guide dogs are an invaluable resource to the blind and partially sighted. More than just pets, these furry assistants help people get around, can locate and retrieve objects, and can offer their owners a sense of independence they might not otherwise have. But how should others behave around a guide dog? What is acceptable behavior and interaction? Here are some tips from Guidedogs.com.
- A guide dog should never be distracted from its duty. A person’s safety may depend on the dog’s alertness and concentration, so refrain from petting the dog without asking.
- On the other hand, many people enjoy introducing their dogs when they have the time, so it is okay to ask for permission to pet the guide dog.
- Before asking a question of a person handling a dog, allow them to complete the task at hand.
- Remain calm in your approach and mannerisms, and never tease a dog.
- A guide dog should never be offered food or other distracting treats. The dogs are fed on a schedule and follow a specific diet in order to keep them in optimum condition. Even slight deviations from their routine can disrupt their regular eating and relieving schedules and seriously inconvenience their handlers. Feeding treats to a guide dog weakens its training.
- Similarly, guide dogs should not be offered toys without first asking the handler for permission. Though guide dogs are treated as pets when not in their harness, they are only allowed specific toys.
- Calling out to a guide dog or obstructing its path can be dangerous for both the dog and its handler as it could break the dog’s concentration on its work.
- In some situations, the handler may prefer to take your arm just above the elbow and allow their dog to heel instead of lead. Others will prefer to have their dog follow you. In this case, be sure to talk to the handler and not the dog when giving directions for turns.