Assistance Dog Etiquette: It is often hard to resist petting a cute, floppy eared dog when you see one. So, what do you do when you see a guide dog curled under a restaurant table, or walking along side a person who is blind or visually impaired? The Pennsylvania Association for the Blind encourages following these guidelines when encountering these specially bred and trained dogs;
– Don’t touch, pet, talk to, feed or otherwise distract the dog while
he/she is wearing a harness.
A guide dog is a highly trained dog that acts as a mobility aide to the blind and visually impaired. When a dog is in harness, they are “on duty or working” and must concentrate for the safety of his/her owner or handler.
– Don’t attempt to grab or steer the person while the dog is guiding, do
not attempt to hold the dog’s harness or give the dog commands.
A dog or handler may be in an unfamiliar situation that requires their full attention. Grabbing a harness or leash can disorientate and confuse the team. The handler will give the dog commands when necessary and will ask for assistance if needed.
– Don’t walk on the dog’s left side.
Walking on a dog’s left side may distract or confuse the dog. Instead, walk on the handler’s right side and several paces behind him or her.
– Speak to the person, not the dog.
Many handlers enjoy introducing their guide dogs. Both owner and dog go through training to work as a team, and in most cases develop a strong companionship through the process. Ask the handler if you can pet the dog. If they say yes, do not pat the dog on the head, but stroke the dog on the shoulder area.
Guide dogs are the guiding eyes for people who are blind or visually impaired, and you can expect to see them anywhere the public is allowed. So, the next time you see those “Simply Irresistible” puppy eyes follow these few guidelines and you will insure the safety of both the handler and the dog.