A Woy Woy Walking Group celebrated International Guide Dogs Day on April 28, with a long walk to shine a light on the importance of ‘petiquette’.
The group walked along the Woy Woy foreshore last week to discuss the safety and access available for guide dog handlers and long cane users.
Claire Northrop, an Orientation and Mobility Specialist at Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, who was also walking along the foreshore, said it was great to get out for some fresh air and exercise, particularly for the cause.
“It was such a wonderful opportunity to get together and pass on some messages of support and share stories,” Northrop said.
“Our group is made up of Guide Dogs clients and community volunteers.”
Northrop said it was important for members of the public to be mindful when seeing guide dogs out and about.
“If you do see a guide dog, just make sure your own dog is nice and close to you so you can give the guide dog and their handler some room to safely maneuver,” Northrop added.
“When you see a guide dog with its harness on, think of it as its uniform – the dog is working … it’s always best to ask the handler’s permission to approach the dog.
“Attention from the public can potentially distract the dog from its important work, putting the handler at risk.”
A new client survey by Guide Dogs Australia found that 70% of handlers experienced distraction from poorly behaved pet dogs in the past 12 months.
The study also discovered the problem lies wherein people with pet dogs do not make themselves known before approaching a handler and their guide dog.
Some 40 per cent of respondents said they experience this weekly with, half of handlers reporting it makes them feel anxious and unsafe with many changing their travel habitats as a result.