Respect the Harness: Guide Dog Etiquette
Guide dogs are highly trained to know the difference between “harness-on” and “harness-off.” When the harness is on, the dog is focused and working. When the harness is off, it’s time to relax or play like any other dog. Humans, please respect the harness and ignore a working dog!
When navigating with a guide dog, a person with a visual impairment relies on the dog to avoid obstacles; stop for curbs and crossings; find objects such as doors, exits, and stairs; and generally help the person arrive safely to their destination. A working dog is alert and busy concentrating on commands. Distracting a working dog can be frustrating to the handler and may put both dog and human in danger. Follow these tips for proper etiquette when encountering a guide dog.
Guide Dog Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts:
- Don’t interact with a working dog by petting, calling out the dog’s name, or giving the dog commands. A guide dog should only hear commands from its handler.
- Don’t allow children to interact with the dog. Do teach children the difference between a pet and a service dog.
- Don’t allow your pets to interact with a working guide dog.
- Don’t feed the dog anything without the handler’s permission, especially not table scraps. Guide dogs must maintain an ideal weight and fitness level, not to mention food being a natural distraction from work.
- Don’t attempt to guide, steer, or hold a person navigating with a guide dog. Do let the dog work.
- If the dog is out of harness, do ask permission to pet the dog or to allow children to pet the dog. If the dog is resting, do allow it to rest without disturbing it.
- Walking together? Right-handed handlers often work their dogs on their left side. Do walk on the handler’s right side, a few paces behind. Walking on the left side (the dog side) may distract the dog.