Is It Ever Appropriate to Pet a Guide Dog?

March 19, 2015

Sandy has received her first question: Is it ever appropriate to pet a guide dog?

The job of a guide dog is to guide a person who is blind or visually impaired. Think about the partnership between dog and handler like a team. The person tells the dog where to go, while the dog’s job is to safely guide him or her to the desired location.

Imagine being distracted by something or someone while at work. It wouldn’t be easy to focus, would it? The same thing happens with guide dogs. Greg Polman, Senior Vice President of Public Policy at The Chicago Lighthouse and a guide dog user for 15 years, gives us the following example.

If while waiting to catch the “L” (train) someone decides to pet or play with Ruben – his current dog guide – the dog will lose focus. This can have a number of consequences for both Greg and Ruben and even put them in danger. Because Ruben isn’t focusing, Greg can possibly miss his train. This wouldn’t be good, especially if he is trying to get to work or to an important meeting!

If you see that the dog is wearing a harness that means he or she is working. Sandy kindly asks you not to pet or speak to the dog at this team. On the other hand, if the dog is out of harness or you are in social situation and the dog is resting, it might be okay. However, you should always first ask the handler for permission.

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