Guide Dogs Don’t Understand Physical Distancing
Physical distancing can be difficult, at times, for anyone who is blind or partially sighted. Dogs, including guide dogs, are not aware of COVID-19. Remember, if you encounter someone with a guide dog, it is important to respect physical distancing. Under normal circumstances, a guide dog is expected to avoid all distractions, including interacting with other dogs and people, other than the guide dog handler. It is always a safety issue, but even more-so now with the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Social distancing is the responsibility of everyone, but think of those who cannot see. If someone is walking with their guide dog, they may not know you are approaching until you are very close or within their two metres of personal space. Stay clear of guide dogs and Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind suggests the following:
Always remember, distracting a guide dog can make its owner vulnerable to harm. Guide dogs don’t understand physical distancing. Please help keep a safe distance by staying two metres (six feet) away.
Please don’t let your pet near a guide dog, even if your pet is leashed. Even allowing your pet to visit or “say hi,” for just a moment, can cause the guide dog to lose focus on the important job it has to do.
It is helpful to let a person who is blind know that you are nearby and tell them if you have a dog with you.
Do not pet the guide dog, call the dog’s name, make eye contact, feed or talk to the dog. It is always best to treat the dog as if it is not there.
Do not shout directions, take the person by the arm or interrupt them, especially when they are crossing the street. Always ask the person if they need help first.
Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind (CGDB) is a national, non-profit, charitable organization founded in 1984 to provide Canadians with greater mobility and independence through the use of professionally trained guide dogs (nationally) and mobility assistance dogs (Ottawa area). Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind has provided more than 870 professionally trained guide dogs to Canadians since 1984.
To learn more about Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind or to make a donation, visit www.guidedogs.ca.