Lots of blind people all across the world have a guide dog as their chosen form of mobility. They enjoy the freedom that a steady moving guide can bring into their lives. As much as a furry friend can offer a sightless person it can also cause some bumps along the road. However, these obstacles are not always the dogs fault.
Many of the people around the team don’t know the right and wrong way to interact with a blind person with a guide dog. Of course the puppy is cute and looks so incredibly cuddly. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean you should try and coax it over to you for a rub down or a baby talk session.
Rule number one for people who come across a guide team is you can look but don’t touch. It is never under any circumstance okay to interrupt a dog. When they are helping their person get from point “A” to point “B”, they are working. You wouldn’t walk into a surgery that is already in progress to quiz the doctor on the type of soap he used before opening up the patients heart would you?
Interrupting a guide while they are hard at work can be just as detrimental. Distractions cause accidents and accidents cause injuries. You may not intend on causing harm when you whistle at their beautiful Lab but it may very well happen. It might seem like an alright thing to do but it’s not.
A guide dog and their person are trained to work in sink together as a unified team. They communicate to each other all the time even if not in words. Once distracted the link is broken. A guide in essence is of course just like any other dog. If someone talks sweet or whistles at them they are going to turn their head and possibly trot over. But what if this happens while standing on a street corner? The dog may try to barrel across to greet you forgetting their person is still attached to the harness. This can put both the dog and their person in potential danger from passing cars.
If a guide dog is constantly bombarded with people trying to distract him or her they may become overwhelmed. It can in some cases be difficult for a person to get their guide back on track. The dogs guide work will suffer because of this and become sloppy. They may be too busy thinking about what the stranger distracting them is doing to notice a pole that’s clearly in their person’s path.
If you encounter a guide team and you are in position to reach out and touch the dog, please refrain from doing so. It is frowned upon by most blind people for someone to randomly pet their dog. Some will allow such interactions but only with permission. If they say no don’t be offended. They just might not have time or the dog may not handle interaction with other people gracefully. For some dogs, once they get that one pat on the head they can’t stop looking for their next fix from those passing by.
Don’t worry; guide dogs are not abused, unloved or lacking in the loving attention department. Even if you don’t see a blind person playing or cuddling with their guide that doesn’t mean they don’t have a deeply attached relationship. Most guide teams have a closer nit bond than that of a regular man’s best friend type of situation. After all, a guide dog works hard every day to ensure their person is safe every second that they are out and about. The blind person thereby puts all of their trust and their life into the guide dog’s capable paws. This makes for a firm lasting connection. Many people say for them it was love at first lick.