VANCOUVER ISLAND DOG GUIDE SOCIETY

DOG GUIDES: COMMON QUESTIONS & ANSWERS


WHAT IS A DOG GUIDE?

A dog guide is a "working dog" and whenever it is in harness it is hard at work guiding its partner. Just as you would never interrupt a person who is concentrating on work - you should NEVER interrupt a dog guide team - no matter how gorgeous the dog or how great the temptation!!!


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IS THE CONCEPT OF A DOG AS A GUIDE NEW?

The concept of a dog as a guide for a blind person is not a modern one. A fresco exists among the ruins of Pompeii showing a dog leading a blind man across the forum. The environment for the Pompeiian dog guide was not that different from the one in which today's guide works. Replace the hustle and bustle of the Pompeiian marketplace with shopping centres and exchange speeding horses with automobiles and you see that the demands placed on contemporary guides are similar to the ones their ancestors experienced.


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WHAT TYPE OF DOG MAKES A GOOD DOG GUIDE?

Breeds are chosen with temperaments that are willing to please and willing to work. The dog also needs to be physically adept, big enough to guide a person, and manageable. Many dog guides also have double coats. This allows them to tolerate either hot or cold temperatures and also makes it more comfortable for them when they are wearing their working harness.


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WHAT BREEDS MAKE THE BEST DOG GUIDES?

Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Labrador Retrievers have the kind of temperament that allows them to develop a consistent work pattern. However, occasionally other breeds are trained according to the needs of the person who is to be guided.


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DOES A DOG GUIDE LIKE TO GUIDE?

Yes! The dog is doing the job it was trained to do - and it enjoys doing it to the best of its ability. Dogs are motivated largely by an desire to please. When a dog is guiding its partner, the dog is being given constant verbal and physical praise to let him or her know that he or she is doing a good job.


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WHY DOES A DOG GUIDE HAVE TO WEAR A SPECIAL HARNESS?

The harness is an important means of communication between the dog and its partner. It allows the person to feel the movement of the dog and in many aspects becomes an extension of the person's arm. The harness allows the person to feel if the dog is going up or down, forwards or sideways. The person has been trained to follow his or her dog and trust it to do its job.


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IS IT OKAY TO PAT A DOG GUIDE WHEN IT IS WORKING?

Never touch a dog guide, the dog guide's leash or the dog guide's harness when the dog is working. When the dog does not appear to be hard at work please ask the person being guided if you may touch the dog or talk to his or her guide - some dog guides are easily distracted. Do not be offended if the person prefers that you do not touch the dog guide. Remember, the person's life depends on the alertness of his or her dog guide. The dog guide's first responsibility is to its partner.


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IS IT OKAY TO GIVE THE DOG GUIDE A TREAT?

Never offer a dog guide food, toys or other distracting treats. Remember they are working dogs and are often on special diets and schedules. However, when they are "off duty" they have play time with their partner and are just like other dogs.


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DOES A DOG GUIDE EVER MAKE A MISTAKE?

Occasionally a dog guide will get distracted and make an error. At that time it is crucial to make the situation right as quickly as possible so the dog can receive praise for correct behaviour. A correction can be a verbal "NO", a collar correction, or a combination of both. Remember - a person and his or her dog guide are a team and need to be able to rely on each other - discipline is important in the maintenance of a good working relationship between the person and his or her dog guide.


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HOW DOES A DOG GUIDE KNOW WHEN IT IS SAFE TO CROSS THE STREET?

The dog guide and its partner are a team. The person is trained to listen to the traffic. When the person feels it is safe to cross the street he/she gives the dog a forward command. If the dog sees something that the person has not heard the dog is trained to disobey.


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WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I THINK A PERSON AND HIS OR HER DOG GUIDE REQUIRES ASSISTANCE?

Always ask the person if he or she wants assistance rather than grabbing the person without asking. If the person wants your help, allow him or her to take your arm just below your elbow so he or she can follow the motion of your body.


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DO DOG GUIDES HAVE SPECIAL RIGHTS OF ACCESS TO "ALL" PUBLIC PLACES?

Yes, these rights are protected by law. If you choose not to allow a dog guide into your place of business - you will be breaking the law! All persons with dog guides carry identification cards with them. Feel free to ask to see the ID card if you are unsure if the dog is truly a "dog guide".


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IS A DOG GUIDE A PET?

No, a dog guide is a "working dog". However, when it is not hard at work it is allowed to relax and play just like other dogs.


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CAN A LANDLORD PREVENT A PERSON WITH A DOG GUIDE FROM RENTING OR ENTERING A PREMISE THAT STATES "NO PETS ALLOWED"?

No! Dog guides have special rights of access to ALL public places including apartments, condominiums, hotels, motels, restaurants, buses, planes and trains. It is against the law to forbid a dog guide to accompany his or her partner wherever he or she goes.


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HOW DO I FIND OUT MORE ABOUT DOG GUIDES?

Don't be afraid to ask the person using a dog guide questions. The dog guide team would rather you ask questions than remain uninformed about what "is" or "is not" correct. However, remember, that there will be times when the person has an appointment to get to or a bus to catch and will be unable to answer your questions immediately.


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IS IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE SOMEONE COME TO OUR SCHOOL/ORGANIZATION TO TALK ABOUT DOG GUIDES?

Yes, contact the Vancouver Island Dog Guide Society. They have a list of people who are more than willing to talk about dog guides.


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WHAT IS THE "VANCOUVER ISLAND DOG GUIDE SOCIETY"?

The Vancouver Island Dog Guide Society is a registered non-profit society which was organized to increase awareness of dog guides and their rights. Its focus is on educating the public, providing support to dog guide teams, assistance with veterinary costs, and advocacy to ensure the rights of dog guide teams are met.


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I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE "VANCOUVER ISLAND DOG GUIDE SOCIETY". HOW CAN I GET IN TOUCH WITH THEM?

Members of the Vancouver Island Dog Guide Society can be contacted as follows:

 

PO Box 8008

Victoria BC  V8W 3R7

Tel. (250) 881-4562

Fax. (250) 595-4849

E-mail: vidgs-e@victoria.tc.ca

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Last revised: April 16st, 1999 by Don Urquhart

Vancouver Island Dog Guide Society and Victoria Freenet Association