Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Meeting a blind person with a guide dog

Guide Dogs are considered to be "on duty" when wearing their harnesses. It is a natural impulse for most people to want to stop and pet a guide dog, but the dog should not be petted or disrupted while working. An attempt to pet a guide dog in harness can distract the dog from its job, placing the owner's safety in jeopardy.

When a guide dog is out of its harness, permission should always be asked before reaching to touch or pet a guide dog.

Do not offer food or treats to a guide dog. This can be distracting, and handlers carefully monitor their dog's diet. A guide dog is able to do its job most efficiently when a recommended diet is followed.

Calling out the dog's name or making distracting noises can break a guide dog's concentration and ability to work. Guide dogs are friendly and they will want to respond to the attention you are giving them, but please remember: They are working as a blind person's eyes.

A person using a guide dog wants to be treated as an independent person. If you want to offer assistance simply ask, "May I help you?" If they respond yes, approach them on their right side and offer your left arm for assistance. You should not take hold of the guide dog's harness or leash; this will confuse and startle the individual.

Guide dogs enjoy playing and, when off duty, they are treated the same as most pets are. Southeastern recommends specific toys for play and, as with petting, you should always ask the handler's permission before offering any toys.

Guide dogs will make mistakes. The handler has received extensive training in giving humane and proper corrections and they will need to give a verbal and/or leash correction when a dog makes a mistake. Lots of praise follows once the dog has corrected its actions.

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