Seeing Eye Dogs are amazing animals trained to learn a very special skill – to be the ‘eye’ for a person who is blind or has low vision.
Not only are they incredibly intelligent, but for dog lovers, they’re adorable. Because of this, many of us feel the urge to walk up and pet them, not knowing that this uninvited and sudden petting can distract the dog from its main duty.
That’s why it’s important for us to remember that these dogs are working and keep in mind these top 5 tips on how to act around Seeing Eye Dogs:
- If the dog’s harness is on, it means that it’s ‘on duty’. You should not do anything that will distract it such as touching, feeding or talking to it.
- Provide assistance to the dog’s handler only if requested. Speak directly to the person, not the dog, when offering assistance.
- Keep pathways clear of obstacles and make sure doors are either fully opened or fully closed.
- Position yourself slightly behind the right shoulder of a dog handler when walking with them or walk about 1 metre ahead if the handler is instructing their dog to “follow” and continue talking to the person.
- Even if the dog’s harness if off, always ask the handler’s permission first before you rub or pet the assistance dog. The handler is the best person to know if the dog is happy to be petted.
So there you have it, five simple tips to keep in mind next time you encounter someone with a Seeing Eye Dog and guarantee the safety of the low vision person being assisted.