Respect My Uniform
This International Guide Dog Day (27 April), Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is urging the public to resist patting or distracting Guide Dogs in harness.
Respect my uniform
A working Guide Dog wears an easily recognisable harness. Guide Dogs in harness are on duty whether they are physically guiding a person or sitting at their feet. They undergo intensive training to learn complex skills and gain required attributes such as good concentration and the ability to control the temptation to be distracted.
Distracting a working Guide Dog reduces its capacity to do what it has been trained to do, potentially putting its handler’s safety at risk. A well-intentioned pat can undo months of training, and frequent distraction can cause anxiety or serious injury for Guide Dogs and their handlers.
Facts and figures
- In a survey* conducted in 2015, 89% of Guide Dog handlers reported that their Guide Dog had been distracted by members of the public in the past 12 months.
- In the same survey, 83% of Guide Dogs handlers reported that their Guide Dog had been distracted by an off-lead dog in the past 12 months.
- Most people know they are not supposed to pat a working Guide Dog, but still do.
- In some serious cases, ongoing distraction can result in the premature retirement of a Guide Dog, which cost more than $35,000 to breed, raise and train.
Matt McLaren’s story
Having a Guide Dog allows Australia’s Got Talent Matt McLaren to maintain an independent, busy life and a thriving career.
However, the public sometimes restrict his ability to move through different environments. “People will try to talk to Stamford while I am walking, make clicking noises, pat him while I move past them and try to make eye contact with him,” Matt said.
At a recent gig, Matt was carrying a keyboard into a venue and a member of public wanted to play with his Guide Dog. “There was a staircase straight ahead, but as Stamford was not on the ball, I walked straight into it,” he said.
How you can help
Follow these tips to help Guide Dogs and their handlers move around safely and independently:
- If you see a working Guide Dog, please give it and its handler space.
- Please don’t pat, feed or otherwise distract the dog when it is working.
- Please don’t grab the person or the dog’s harness.
- When you provide guiding assistance, please walk on the person’s side which is opposite to the Guide Dog.
- Keep your pet dog on a leash and under control when out and about.
- Spread the word and help us educate the community about Guide Dog access and etiquette, or sign our change.org petition
- Media Release – Respect My Uniform: Guide Dogs NSW/ACT urges community to not distract working dogs in harness
- Matt McLaren's story
- Guide Dog etiquette
- Video - Respect My Uniform (watch in Youtube)
- Sign our change.org petition - Respect My Uniform: I pledge not to distract Guide Dogs in harness
*Survey conducted by Sweeney Research across Guide Dog NSW/ACT clients in NSW, VIC, SA, ACT, TAS and NT in 2015.