Over the years, people have had various reactions when seeing my guide dog. I want to take the time to tell readers about the best ways to interact with a guide dog handler.
Guide dogs are not in public places to entertain people. They have a special mission. The guide dog helps a blind or visually impaired person navigate independently. How the public responds to a guide dog team can either help or hinder them.
Guide dogs are supposed to be ignored when they are working. This is not to be mean to people, or the dog. It is for the safety for both the handler and the dog. If a guide dog is distracted by another person, he or she may lose focus and the handler and/or dog could be injured. People may ask if they can pet the dog. Each guide dog handler responds differently. Some are strict while others are more lenient. Please do not be offended if you are told that it is better if you do not pet the dog. The decision has nothing to do with you.
As for me, it depends on the situation I am in if I allow my guide dog to interact with people. I do allow people to pet my dog in some situations.
Another thing that frequently happens to me is that people will address the dog before speaking to me. Some people do not even acknowledge my presence. Keep in mind, the dog would not be in front of you if the handler was not there. So please acknowledge the owner and ignore the dog. As already stated above, if asked the owner may allow you to pet his or her dog. Please do not assume that it is okay to address the dog by name or reach down and pat the dog on the head.
Many guide dogs are affectionate. My guide dog is very loving. He receives plenty of attention while out of harness. While in harness, the dog still receives attention and praise from the owner. The dog loves to help the handler so please be courteous and help the dog successfully guide the owner.
In upcoming posts, I will write about other questions that I receive about working with a guide dog. If you have a question about guide dogs, feel free to comment on this post, or any future posts.