Guide dogs: more than just a companion for blind people
Guide dogs: between play and work
Contrary to popular belief, the guide dog is not simply a tool for accompanying blind people. They play an essential role in their autonomy. Guide dogs have two modes of operation: play and work.
In the first mode, the guide dog behaves like a normal pet. He can be stroked and played with without any problem. In the second mode, however, he has to concentrate entirely on his work.
It's vital to distinguish between these two roles in order to respect both the blind person and his companion. The autonomy of blind people is a responsibility shared by all.
Wearing a harness: a sign to be respected
When a guide dog is wearing a harness, it's important to curb any urge to touch him, as this means he's working. The harness is often fitted with a sign saying “Don't touch me, I'm working”, so there's no excuse for not respecting this instruction.
There are, however, many other factors that can distract a guide dog from carrying out its duties and disrupt its work, presenting a problem for the blind person.
Distractions to avoid
Passers-by often reach out to touch a guide dog when crossing a crosswalk, particularly because the animal remains motionless. This puts the blind person at risk, as the dog is not 100% attentive to its work. It is therefore essential not to distract the animal in any way.
Similarly, food is a major distraction for guide dogs. It is vital not to offer them food, as this can not only cause digestive problems, but also break their concentration.
Respecting the guide dog's space
Letting your dog run free in the vicinity of a guide dog can also be a distraction. Animals tend to play with each other, which can distract the guide dog's attention. So it's best to maintain a distance and keep your dog quiet.
It's also important not to touch the harness holding the guide dog. This interferes with the dog's work and should only be done by a blind person.
Respecting the rights of guide dogs
All guide dogs have the right to free access to all establishments, public places, means of transport and restaurants. Denying entry to these animals not only deprives the blind person of accompaniment, but is also against the law.
It's not just up to adults to refrain from interfering with the guide dog's work, but also to children. They must also be responsible and respectful towards these animals.
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