Respect My Uniform: Guide Dogs NSW/ACT urges community to not distract working dogs in harness
Each day, members of the public place the safety of Guide Dog handlers at risk by patting, feeding and interacting with Guide Dogs, tasked with assisting those who are blind or vision impaired to independently get to where they need to go.
To address this issue, on International Guide Dog Day (Wednesday, April 27), Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is launching its public education campaign, Respect My Uniform, calling on the community to resist patting or distracting working Guide Dogs.
Guide Dog Etiquette
It takes a lot of concentration for a person who is blind or has impaired vision to work safely with a Guide Dog. To help the team focus on its important work, please follow these tips:
- Please don’t make the Guide Dog the centre of attention
- Please don’t pat, feed or otherwise distract the dog when it is working. A well-intentioned pat can undo months of training
- Please don’t grab the person or the dog’s harness. First ask if they need assistance.
- When providing guiding assistance, please walk on the opposite side of the person to the Guide Dog
- Please make sure your pet dog is on a leash or under control around a Guide Dog. When approaching, it may be polite to let the person know that you have a dog with you.
- Guide Dogs are legally allowed to accompany their handlers anywhere, including into restaurants and onto all forms of transport, ie taxis, buses, trains and planes
For Guide Dog handler and Australia’s Got Talent finalist, Matt McLaren, the incidence of members of the public attempting to distract his Guide Dog, Stamford, is a daily occurrence. Matt, who has been blind since birth, received Stamford about eight years ago.
“Stamford enables me to do so much more than I could with a cane, such as carry music gear and travel confidently to new places,” Matt said. “I want the public to understand that distracting a working Guide Dog reduces its capacity to do what it has been trained to do, potentially putting my safety at risk. It can also be time consuming as I often need to refocus Stamford after he has been distracted before moving on.”
Did you know?
- International Guide Dog Day celebrates the important role Guide Dogs play in enabling freedom and independence for people living with vision loss.
- The first Guide Dog to be trained In Australia was Beau, a Kelpie/Border Collie cross, in Perth in 1952. Beau and his blind owner Mrs Elsie Mead travelled all over Australia promoting Guide Dog mobility.