Did you know that guide dogs are among the most highly trained dogs in the world? They are specifically trained to assist someone who is blind or partially sighted with mobility, orientation and independence. This month, we encourage you to learn all about the role of guide dogs, guide dog etiquette, the difference between guide dogs and service animals, and how YOU can become #GuideDogChampions in your community:

  • Watch out for weekly educational online videos
  • Participate in the Guide Dog colouring contest for your chance to win one of two “Future CNIB Guide Dog” plush
  • Request a free CNIB “Guide Dogs Welcome” window decal to put up in your organization and show support for guide dog access

Visit www.ajax.ca/access for full details.  

Guide Dog Etiquette

Julia and Abbey at Guide Dog Story TimeJulia Stevenson is the current Chair of the Town of Ajax Accessibility Advisory Committee. She is legally blind and is accompanied by her guide dog, Abbey. In recognition of September being Guide Dog Awareness Month, Julia has prepared some reminders and tips for when you may encounter a guide dog team in your community. 

I've been a guide dog user for almost 11 years. During that time, my dog and I have had many great experiences and connections with people. They say hello, interact with me, ask questions about my dog and how we work together. These are positive experiences and I greatly appreciate them.

On the flip side, we’ve had just as many, if not more, negative experiences with people while out in public. My guess is that they don't realize that their actions are unhelpful or even offensive. I'd like to share some guide dog etiquette in the hopes that it helps others understand what is and is not appropriate when approaching and interacting with a working guide dog team – the animal and the handler.

The Do's

  • DO look for visual cues. Guide dogs are usually easily to identify by their harness or vest. If you see a dog wearing either of these items, this should be your first clue that they are a working animal. Identifying a guide dog will help you to avoid unfortunate DON’Ts
  • When approaching a guide dog team DO focus on the handler not the dog. Gushing love and adoration on the dog distracts it from doing its job. 
  • DO talk to the handler, not the dog. While the handler may not be able to see, they should be treated with as much respect as any other person.
  • Many guide dog handlers are happy to answer questions about their dog, how they work, their training and other issues. However, DO be respectful! It is not okay to ask overly personal questions and pry into the individual's life. 
  • DO give a guide dog team the right of way along a path of travel. 

The Don'ts

  • DO NOT pet a working dog under any circumstances! This is distracts the dog. Remember, the guide dog is as vital to the blind person as a wheelchair or cane is to another disabled person. You wouldn't ask to pet a wheelchair and then get angry if the person said 'no'. 
  • DO NOT call to the service dog, for example, in a restaurant setting or out of a car window. This is terribly distracting for the dog and could end up causing injury to the dog and handler. 
  • DO NOT assume a guide dog handler is intellectually challenged. Please treat them with respect. Do not do things like talk loudly, talk about them as if they can't hear you, express pity for them, or cut in front of them in a line. Individuals who are blind are extremely sensitive and perceptive to their surroundings.
  • DO NOT give commands to the dog. Allow the handler to maintain control of the animal. Only assist the handler if they ask you to do so.
  • DO NOT grab or try to steer the handler by grabbing their arm or the harness of the dog. Should the handler feel they need assistance they will ask you.

The most important DO to remember, is to follow and share the information you’ve learned with your friends and family. This way, you’ll take positive steps to encourage appropriate behaviour of the guide dog, help to promote guide dog awareness and break down barriers within your community!