Meeting a Guide Dog Team: Some Words of Advice
Saying Hello to a Guide Dog Team!
- As tempting as it may be to pet a Guide Dog, remember that this dog is responsible for leading someone who cannot see. The dog should never be distracted from that duty. A person's safety may depend on their dog's alertness and concentration.
- It is okay to ask someone if you may pet their guide. Many people enjoy introducing their dogs when they have the time. The dog's primary responsibility is to its blind partner and it is important that the dog not become solicitous.
- 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. Guide Dogs are trained to resist offers of food so they will be able to visit restaurants without begging. Feeding treats to a Guide Dog weakens this training.
- Although Guide Dogs cannot read traffic signals, they are responsible for helping their handlers safely cross a street. Calling out to a Guide Dog or intentionally obstructing its path can be dangerous for the team as it could break the dog's concentration on its work.
- Listening for traffic flow has become harder for Guide Dog handlers due to quieter car engines and the increasing number of cars on the road. Please don't honk your horn or call out from your car to signal when it is safe to cross. This can be distracting and confusing. Be especially careful of pedestrians in crosswalks when making right-hand turns at red lights.
- It's not all work and no play for a Guide Dog. When they are not in harness, they are treated in much the same way as pets. However, for their safety they are only allowed to play with specific toys. Please don't offer them toys without first asking their handler's permission.
- In some situations, working with a Guide Dog may not be appropriate. Instead, the handler may prefer to take your arm just above the elbow and allow their dog to heel. 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.
- A Guide Dog can make mistakes and will need reminders to maintain its training. Correcting a mistake usually involves a time-out or leash action. When the dog regains focus and correctly follows a cue, he or she is frequently praised and rewarded with a kibble. Guide Dog handlers have been taught appropriate management methods to use with their dogs.
- Access laws, including the United States' Americans with Disabilities Act and Canada's Blind Persons' Rights Act, permit people who are blind to be accompanied by their guide dogs anywhere the general public is allowed, including taxis and buses, restaurants, theaters, stores, schools, hotels, apartment and office buildings.
- 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.
- Never tease a dog.