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Service Dogs and Guide Dog Etiquette

Outline: Pennsylvania Association for the Blind encourages these guidelines when encountering guide dogs.

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What Defines a Guide Dog?

Guide dogs (also known as service animals, assistance animals or seeing eye dogs) are assistance dogs trained to lead blind and visually impaired people around obstacles.

Guide dog breeds are chosen for temperament and train-ability.

Early on, trainers began to recognize which breeds produced dogs most appropriate for guide work. Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and German Shepherds are mainly chosen by service animal facilities. The most popular breed used around the world today is the Labrador Retriever. This breed of dog has a good range of size, is easily kept due to its short coat, is generally healthy and has a gentle - but willing temperament.

Roughly 10,000 people use guide dogs in the United States and Canada, according to Guide Dogs for the Blind, a private organization dedicated to training such service dogs.

Guide Dog Etiquette

It is often hard to resist petting a cute, floppy eared dog when you see one. So, what do you do when you see a guide dog curled under a restaurant table, or walking along side a person who is blind or visually impaired?

A guide dog takes a rest on the floor and looks sleepily at the camera.
A guide dog takes a rest on the floor and looks sleepily at the camera.

Follow these guidelines when encountering specially bred and trained dogs;

Guide dogs are the guiding eyes for people who are blind or visually impaired, and you can expect to see them anywhere the public is allowed. If the person needs your help, they will ask for it. Otherwise, treat the dog’s owner just like you do everyone else you meet.

So, the next time you see those "Simply Irresistible" puppy eyes follow these few guidelines and you will insure the safety of both the handler and the dog. Contact your local blind agency for more information.

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