It has been revealed that over 40 per cent 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.
On International Guide Dog Day (28 April), we at Guide Dogs Australia are focusing on what the community can do to help guide dogs carry on their important work safely and undistracted.
International Guide Dog Day is about recognising the important role guide dogs play in supporting people worldwide with low vision or blindness to achieve their goals and live independently.
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’.
Pet dogs that are off-lead, or uncontrolled even when on leads, are a common distraction for guide dog handlers. Also, people with dogs not making themselves known before approaching a handler and their guide dog can be a ‘petiquette’ issue – with 40 per cent of handlers telling us they experience this weekly.
This can lead to situations where the safety of guide dog handlers and guide dogs is put at risk due to disorientation and other factors, and also causes much anxiety. While you or your pet dog may not intend any harm, for someone with low vision or blindness, a distracted guide dog can be hazardous.
This International Guide Dog Day, we are asking everyone to keep their pet dog on a 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.
If you see a working guide dog in public while you are with your dog, give the handler space and never pat, feed, whistle or otherwise try to distract a working guide dog.
Dale Cleaver, CEO of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT