Don't pat the guide dog
Anne Hampton is vision impaired and works with her guide dog Glenn to get around Lismore.
Anne and Glenn, a female black Labrador, have been together for four months.
Anne is working on building a trust relationship with Glenn and said one of the most difficult aspects of being out in public is that people want to feed or pat her dog.
“If people come up to us it’s really important that they address me and don’t touch the dog so she can keep her concentration,” Anne said. “She needs to be aware of where she’s going – she has to do her work, stay in work mode, therefore the less notice people take of her, the better, so she doesn’t worry.”
Anne and other vision-impaired residents of the Northern Rivers are trying to educate the public on proper guide dog etiquette. Guide Dog Week began on April 26 and runs until May 2.
It is extremely important that dog owners are aware of guide dogs.
“People with dogs on leads are usually very good and they will move away and give me enough space,” Anne said. “If the dogs are looking at each other, if the owner can quickly take space it makes it much easier for my dog to resume concentrating on what she’s supposed to do.
“If a dog is off lead or somewhere on their own, it can be difficult. Sometimes Glenn might have spotted it but might not know which way the dog is coming from and she doesn’t particularly care for another dog to come up behind her, she’d rather face it, so she immediately tries to turn around, and they can get a little bit aggressive, which is quite frightening and can be a bit scary.”
Children also need to be taught, as with all dogs, to address the owner, not rush straight up and pat the dog.
“Children will rush up and touch her, she’s very good in most cases but the child might do something unpredictable – she will be okay but it’s better that they don’t,” Anne said.
Often it’s dog-lovers who make the mistake of distracting Glenn from her job of working with Anne to get around town.
“People will go to put their hand out looking at the dog, and the dog knows that and immediately takes the cue, then I’ve got to ask them to stop,” Anne said. “It’s okay to have a talk as long as we’re stopped and in a position where I’ve got full control.
“We’re all different, we handle each dog differently, some are really good, some are still learning, it just takes time.”