International Guide Dog Day

On IGDD, we celebrate the important role Guide Dogs play in supporting people all around the world

A person hugging a black labrador Guide Dog in harness. The person and dog are looking at the camera and the person is smiling,

Wednesday April 28 is International Guide Dog Day – a special day on the Guide Dogs calendar to celebrate the important role Guide Dogs play in supporting people all around the world with low vision or blindness to achieve their goals and live independently.

This year’s theme

This year, we wanted to use International Guide Dog Day to remind the community of what they can do to help Guide Dogs carry on their important work of guiding a person with low vision or blindness undistracted – particularly in relation to pet dogs.

Why now?

A recent survey told us that more than 40 percent of Guide Dog Handlers across Australia have experienced an increase in distractions from pet dogs and owners in the past 12 months.

A yellow Labrador Guide Dog in harness

Throughout 2020, animal adoption agencies recorded the biggest spikes for adoptions and breeder waiting lists were at capacity. This influx of isolated COVID-pups is likely to blame for spikes in dog distraction, with at least 70 percent of Guide Dog Handlers reporting distraction from poorly behaved pet dogs in the past 12 months.

Off-lead dogs and uncontrolled dogs on leads are the most common distractions for working Guide Dogs and their Handlers. People with pet dogs not making themselves known before approaching a Handler and their Guide Dog is another ‘petiquette’ issue.

Guide Dog Handlers told us this can make them feel anxious and unsafe, with many changing their travel habits or avoiding locations as a result.

“The past year has thrown everyone challenges and while pets brought so much joy to Australian homes during the pandemic, reduced socialisation and training of pets during lockdowns can lead to poor ‘petiquette’. This can cause anxiety for Guide Dog Handlers. While you or your pet dog may not intend any harm, for someone with low vision or blindness, a distracted Guide Dog can cause great uncertainty,”

“And while Guide Dogs are trained to stay focussed and overcome many distractions, these situations can become dangerous with almost a third of Handlers surveyed saying their Guide Dogs has been attacked by another dog at least once.

This International Guide Dog Day, we are asking everyone to keep their pet dog on leash in the presence of Guide Dogs. By keeping control of your own dog, you can help create a safe community, not just for Guide Dogs and their Handlers, but for everyone “

A person walking down the street with their yellow labrador Guide Dog who is in a harness.

Petiquette for polite pooches

Distracting a Guide Dog can mean the difference between life and death for its Handler.

These simple tips can help keep everyone safe:

  • Keep your dog on a lead in designated areas. The leash should be short enough to prevent your dog from contacting or jumping on passers-by.
  • If you see a working Guide Dog in public while you are with your dog, give the Handler space.
  • Prevent your dog from barking at other dogs. Practice getting your dog’s attention to easily redirect them if they bark at people or other dogs.
  • Always ask any dog owner if you or your dog can greet their dog.
  • Never pat, feed, whistle or otherwise try to distract a working Guide Dog. If you have a question, approach the Handler directly.

Hear from Guide Dog Handler Ben about his own experiences with pet dog distractions while out in the community with his Guide Dog Jontie.

Listen to the Quokkas' song here

We teamed up with Aussie children’s band The Quokkas to help parents teach kids about Guide Dog etiquette with a super catchy new song, ‘Don’t Pat Me’! The song is inspired by band member and Guide Dog Handler Matt McLaren’s own personal experience with his Guide Dog Indy.

‘Don’t Pat Me’ explains how to behave around a Guide Dog in harness and is available from on Spotify and iTunes.

Our video features band members from The Quokkas, Guide Dog Handlers, and Guide Dogs staff and volunteers all dancing to the new release.

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