Guide dogs have made some people’s world so much better but there are certain things about guide dogs that some people don’t know. The person receiving the guide dog will also receive some instructions, but people who are around the person and the dog, may not know how to act.
The person receiving the dog will spend weeks training with the dog. Various things are considered when matching a person and a dog, including the stride of the person, the person’s height and also his or her lifestyle.
Guide dogs are highly trained to help the person they are charged with, and they do their jobs very well. But, their only concern is with their charge, not others in the person’s life, so it’s up to you to know what to do – and what not to do – while around him.
A guide dog is trained to walk in a straight line in the center of the sidewalk, unless there happens to be an obstacle in the way. In that case, he will walk around the obstacle then resume his regular trek. They are also taught to walk straight, indefinitely, unless told to turn a corner.
Guide dogs are also taught to stop before stepping off of a curb. They wait for command to cross or turn and will not step off the curb until a choice is made and a command given. If you happen to be walking with the person and the dog, do not walk to the dog’s left. Instead, walk to the right of the person who has the dog.
Never give commands to someone else’s guide dog. The dog is trained to only follow the commands of his master and will likely ignore you or may even become confused. Let the owner give out all commands.
Never try to lead the person away from the path the dog is taking. Steering the person in a different direction can become very upsetting and confusing to the guide dog. Never grab for the dog’s harness or leash, either. These are strictly for use by the master.
Do not offer the dog snacks, table scraps, or other foods. The master is the one who feeds the dog. It’s fine to let children play with the dog, while the dog is not ‘on duty’. Don’t let them roughhouse him or tease him, though. The dog can be petted, but don’t allow patting on the head. Some dogs are taught to obey a command that is signaled by a pat on the head.
Don’t allow the dog to be put in a position of being challenged or intimidated by another dog. If there are other pets in the house, or on the property, keep them separated from the guide dog if they don’t seem to get along. If the guide dog becomes injured in a tiff with another dog, he can’t do his job for his master.
Guide dogs perform a great service to humanity, and they’re smart and caring as well. Treat guide dogs with respect and let them do the job for which they’ve been trained. It’s their only goal in life and they’re thrilled to do it, so don’t interfere or try to teach him new drills. It’ll only cause trouble for the dog and the master.