Every day, 28 Australians are diagnosed with uncorrectable vision loss. Of those, 9 will become blind. The service provided by specially trained Guide Dogs is paramount to allowing these people to maintain their freedom and independence.
As International Guide Dog Day comes around again, it is important to acknowledge the incredible work guide dog associations around the world are doing. Similarly, it is even more important to understand that whilst these cute and cuddly animals might look like normal dogs to you – they’re actually working, and members of the public need to take note and realise there are certain ways to act around these much-needed service dogs.
It takes a huge amount of concentration for a person who is visually impaired to walk and communicate with their guide dog, as such we have compiled an etiquette list to keep in mind when you come across one of these furry helpers.
- Whatever you do, never pat, feed or distract a guide dog whilst working. Even the smallest pat or “good boy” in passing can undo months of training.
- Pet owners must keep their dogs on leashes at all times around guide dogs.
- If approaching a Guide Dog team with your own pet, clearly introduce yourself and let the handler know that you have a dog with you. Again, maintain a safe distance to avoid distraction.
- If you are providing guiding assistance, speak clearly to the handler and walk on the person’s side which is opposite to the Guide Dog.
Facts & Figures
• 54% of the Guide Dog handlers surveyed said their Guide Dog had been attacked by another dog while it was working.
• 50% of attacks happened in the past year, while 85% of attacks occurred in the past three years.
• 29% of Guide Dogs attacked sustained injuries, with one retired as a result of the trauma.
• 70% of attacks on a Guide Dog were caused by an off-lead dog, with dogs on a lead (but not controlled by their owner) responsible for the other 30% of attacks.
• 50% of Guide Dogs attacked were attacked more than once in the past three years – 21% were attacked twice, 6% three times, 6% four times, 3% five times and 15% more than five times.
• 86% of Guide Dog handlers said off-lead dogs had distracted their Guide Dogs while they were working.
Following these rules will make sure that Guide Dog teams are sufficiently equipped to carry out their very important duties and the months, and cost, of training these very special helpers does not go to waste.