Guide Dogs encourage good ‘petiquette’
More than 40 percent of Guide Dogs Handlers across Australia have reported an increase in their Guide Dogs having to deal with distractions from pet dogs and owners in the past 12 months.
This is according to a new national Client survey by Guide Dogs Australia ahead of International Guide Dog Day (IGDD) on April 28.
This year, Guide Dogs is focusing on what the community can do to allow Guide Dogs to carry on their important work of guiding a person with low vision or blindness undistracted.
Through 2020, animal adoption agencies recorded the biggest spikes for adoptions and breeder waiting lists were at capacity. This influx of isolated COVID-pups is likely to be a cause for the spike in dog distraction, with at least 70 percent of Guide Dog Handlers reporting distraction from poorly behaved pet dogs in the past 12 months.
People with pet dogs not making themselves known before approaching a Handler and their Guide Dog is the biggest ‘petiquette’ issue. Half of Guide Dog Handlers said this made them feel anxious and unsafe.
And it’s not just ourselves and our puppies that we need to educate, but our kids too. To help parents teach kids about Guide Dog etiquette, Aussie children’s band, The Quokkas, have released a song inspired by band member and Guide Dog Handler Matt McLaren’s own personal experience with his own Guide Dog, Indy.
‘Don’t Pat Me’ explains how to behave around a Guide Dog in harness and is available from today on Spotify and iTunes.
“International Guide Dog Day is about recognising the important role Guide Dogs play in supporting people all around the world with low vision or blindness to achieve their goals and live independently,” said Guide Dogs SA/NT CEO Aaron Chia.
“The past year has thrown everyone challenges and while pets brought so much joy to Australian homes during the pandemic, reduced socialisation and training of pets during lockdowns can lead to poor ‘petiquette’.
“This can cause anxiety for Guide Dog Handlers. While you or your pet dog may not intend any harm, for someone with low vision or blindness, a distracted Guide Dog can cause great distress and may put the Handler and the Guide Dog in danger.
“Guide Dogs are trained to stay focussed and overcome many distractions, but these situations can become dangerous, with almost a third of Handlers surveyed saying their Guide Dogs has been attacked by another dog at least once.
“This International Guide Dog Day, we are asking everyone to keep their pet dog on leash in the presence of Guide Dogs. By keeping control of your own dog, you can help create a safe community, not just for Guide Dogs and their Handlers, but for everyone.”
Guide Dogs SA/NT Client Anthony Clarke, who has been a Guide Dog Handler for over 40 years, says a distracted Guide Dog can have a major impact on his safety.
“My dog will often lose his line of direction. This puts my safety at risk, particularly if I’m approaching a road crossing where having the correct line of travel is so important.
“Sometimes, it can be disorientating and I might miss a crucial turn-off or corner, or bump into objects that the dog would normally go around.
“My advice to dog owners when they see a Guide Dog and a Handler in the community is to keep their dog moving at a safe distance.
“If we are going to cross paths … I would ask that the owner lets me know that they are there. If they don’t and their dog suddenly approaches me or my dog, it scares the daylights out of me and is distracting and dangerous.”
Learn more about Anthony and Guide Dog Kit and other amazing Guide Dogs clients here.
Good ‘petiquette’ tips
- Keep your dog on a lead in designated areas. Your leash should be short enough to prevent your dog from contacting or jumping on passers-by.
- If you see a working Guide Dog in public while you are with your dog, give the Handler space.
- Prevent barking at other dogs. Practice getting your dog’s attention to easily redirect them if they bark at people or other dogs.
- Always ask any dog owner if you or your dog can greet their dog.
- Never pat, feed, whistle or otherwise try to distract a working Guide Dog. If you have a question, approach the Handler directly.
Our proud Guide Dogs SA/NT Patron, His Excellency the Honourable Hieu Van Le AC, Governor of South Australia, has recorded a message of thanks this International Guide Dog Day. Click here to view the video.