Guide and assistance dogs are fascinating animals and it's not surprising that they draw much interest and attention, especially from children. For any dog lover, the urge to walk up and pet them is natural. One cannot respond to them the same way you would to a pet dog. Very often however, uninvited and sudden petting can distract the dog from its main purpose, which is to guide its owner safely from one point to another.
A guide or assistance dog knows it's working the moment it has its harness or jacket on, and it has been trained not be distracted while doing so. A dog that is prone to being distracted puts the safety of its owner at risk. So while public interest is welcomed, it's always important to consider the situation and whether it is safe and convenient for the guide or assistance dog owner to give you their attention at any given time.
Here are some helpful tips on how to respond appropriately when meeting a guide or an assistance dog and its owner so that the experience is positive for all parties and ensures the safety of the individual being assisted.
When meeting a Guide Dog Owner or Assistance Dog Family, it would be considered good etiquette to approach and address the owner first and then the dog.
- Never rub a guide dog or an assistance dog without asking the owner for permission first. The owner and the dog have a special bond. The owner will know if the dog is happy being petted by members of the public.
- Please do not feed any titbits or morsels of food to a guide dog or assistance dog as this will disrupt the dog's routine and can make the dog sick. Guide dogs and assistance dogs are on a special diet and are fed at regular intervals.
- Do not distract a guide dog or assistance dog when the dog is working as this may confuse the dog.
- Please do not call, pet, whistle or signal to a guide dog or an assistance dog.
- Guide dog owners and assistance dog owners undergo a comprehensive training programme in dog handling. You should not interfere when the owner is working their dog. Do not grab the harness handle or lead away from the owner. Do not give the dog commands. The owner is trained to handle their dog appropriately and any intrusion can distress the dog and its owner.
- Pet dogs are often excitable when they meet a guide dog or assistance dog. They will often sniff, bark at or chase a guide dog or an assistance dog. Pet owners should always keep their pet dog on a leash when they meet a guide dog or an assistance dog, so that, the pet dog will not distract the guide dog or assistance dog from its work. One always needs to consider the safety of the guide or assistance dog first and if pet dogs are excitable and uncontrolled, it can distract the guide or assistance dog and put the owner's safety at risk.