Sign In

Guide Dog Teams

June 8, 2020

In this time when so many of our social rituals have changed to accommodate the new rules of a global pandemic, one thing remains a constant: the need to remember to always use your powers of observation and offer a comfortable “physical distance” around a guide dog and his human handler when they are out in a public setting. Guide dogs are the eyes of their handler–they are trained to lead the way safely and securely. But we can’t expect guide dogs to understand the current physical distancing practice of maintaining 6-foot clearances.

Guide dogs are trained to be decision makers. Even under stressful situations the intent of the dogs’ presence is to protect their handlers from harmful situations involving clearances around obstacles and navigating over dangerous under footings. When another party is in too close proximity, it can distract the dog from its tasks. Just as we humans like our space, guide dogs need space as well to perform their duties.

Our wonderful guide dogs are specifically trained to make safe choices in public settings. This includes on stairways, elevators, and escalators; in supermarket aisles; around restaurant tables and along sidewalks. The long-standing message of being a careful observer applies when you are in the same vicinity as the guide dog team—especially when locating, entering, or exiting doorways. Remember that the dog knows to lead his handler with safe clearance, but he does not know how to create a 6-foot gap.

I believe the guide dog’s presence should tell the story and that we humans must observe and react with care. The responsibility for recommended physical spacing in the presence of a working team should fall to the sighted party. Please decide when it is necessary to make the adjustment for 6-feet of distance between you, and do it in a casual manner. When you see a guide dog team approaching, be observant and add a small amount of space between you as needed. There is no reason for exaggeration, but it’s easy to add a little physical separation to comply with safety practices. A slight movement one way or another will help a lot. We each do it every day in our people-to-people encounters.

And please do this with subtlety and tact. The blind person approaching you does not want to feel awkward or to be put on the spot. Nor do they want to be given preferential treatment. Blindness in and of itself can be the cause of social isolation and often results in loneliness and distancing from life and human interaction. We are in no way suggesting that you avoid engaging with a visually impaired person–just not when that can interfere with their safety and health.

We are all having to make adjustments to adhere to the new protocols and safety measures designed to flatten the curve of Covid-19 in our daily lives. Thank you for being sensitive about giving our life-changing guide dogs a little more space in theirs.

Register Your Dog

  • Most Recent News

    Big Dogs Need Owners

    When the shutdown orders took full effect, it became nearly impossible to find a small dog available for adoption as Southlanders sought furry companions. In many Southland shelters, only larger breeds remained available for adoption. Now Los Angeles Animal Service is touting the joys of big dogs while offering discounted adoption fees for larger breeds […]

    Read more

    Service Dog Walkathon

    On Saturday, October 3, hundreds of walkers from across 15 states joined the path to bettering the world for children with autism and their families as part of BluePath Service Dogs’ fourth annual walkathon. The family-friendly fundraiser – this year held virtually – raised more than $120,000 to further BluePath’s mission of providing autism service […]

    Read more

    Service Dog In The Marching Band

    In a year that is anything but normal, the Jones College Maroon Typhoon Marching Band has welcomed its first known service dog member this fall. Laurie, a 3-year-old golden retriever, is baritone saxophone player Sara-Beth McKellar’s service dog. The Vicksburg native was diagnosed with epilepsy as a sophomore in high school after her first seizure. […]

    Read more

    Church Blesses Animals

    St. Mary’s Church of the Immaculate Conception in Port Jervis hosted a special outdoor service last Sunday afternoon to bless the community’s pets, animals and other living creatures. In keeping with current pandemic rules, pet owners wore masks, remained distant, and took part in praying for dogs, cats, turtles, and other pets and animals around […]

    Read more

    Police Welcome New Canine

    After the unexpected passing of longtime Police Service Dog Zeus earlier this week, Kingston Police are welcoming a new member to the Canine Unit. Police Service Dog Bask, also known as K9-8, is a Dutch Shepherd and Belgium Malinois mix, and will be patrolling the streets of Kingston with his handler Constable Jeff Dickson. Bask […]

    Read more

    Dog Park For Travelers

    St. Petersburg is widely recognized as a dog-friendly city, and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport is making sure its four-legged visitors and their humans feel welcome by rolling out the artificial turf carpet. With the completion of the airport’s parking and roadway project – part of a series of multi-million dollar improvements at the airport over the […]

    Read more