Guide dog etiquette – five things you should know

21 April 2021

April is National Pet Month! National Pet Month celebrates and raises awareness of responsible pet ownership. At WESC Foundation, we often have a wonderful dog called Patty on our campus. Patty is different to the usual pet, Patty is a guide dog and has a very important job that is definitely worth celebrating.

Guide dog wearing guiding harness looking to the right of the picture

Guide dogs are specially bred and trained to be the guiding eyes for people who are blind or visually impaired. There are several guidelines people should follow when in the presence of a guide dog. This is to ensure you act responsibly and do not distract them from their very important job.

To celebrate National Pet Month, we have summarised how you can help to be responsible around a guide dog. Here’s five things you should know about guide dog etiquette:

1. Speak to the handler, not the guide dog

Ask questions about a handler’s relationship with their guide dog and how you should act around them if you’re unsure. For example, some handlers will allow petting of the dog but others may prefer them not to be distracted. Be sure to speak to the handler at an appropriate time and not when the handler is trying to get somewhere!

2. Trust the guide dog

Guide dogs are highly trained to do their job and so always give them the benefit of the doubt. While they are guiding, let them concentrate and never attempt to steer or hold the dog’s harness. Interrupting may distract them so try not to interfere and ask the handler if they would like assistance at an appropriate time.

3. Give guide dogs right of way

Try to allow guide dogs and their handlers space when guiding. This is especially important during the pandemic while social distancing. It’s also important to remember that they are permitted in public places, so if you see them inside a shop or other establishments, don’t be surprised!

4. Don’t interfere when a guide dog handler is giving a correction

We all make mistakes and guide dogs are no exception! Sometimes corrections may seem abrupt but a guide dog handler will also have lots of training to ensure they are properly trained in giving instructions.

5. Remember guide dogs are special dogs

Although they might look like other pet dogs, guide dogs have a very important job. When their harnesses are on, they are hard at work. Other pet dogs might not recognise this and want to play – so it’s best to keep other pets on a lead nearby.

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