Distracting a Guide Dog and Limits with Others

I know many of my readers are classmates and friends and they are probably completely sick of hearing me talk about distracting a guide dog or service dog, but many of my readers also do not know me in real life or have not heard me talk about it as much. Plus, this post has two topics to it really that relate. Many of us were taught not to touch a dog, regardless of whether it was a service dog or just a pet, without asking its owner first. I love this rule and I wish more were taught this rule or obeyed this rule because even if the person doesn’t know the rule of not petting service animals, they should know not to just run up and pet a strange dog. Now some will argue that I wouldn’t have an unfriendly dog on an airplane, in a restaurant, in a store, etc., and this is probably true but you truly never know and you also don’t know what might agitate the dog (we’re talking non-service dogs here) and you get attacked. Point of this semi-ramble is people, just don’t pet ANY dog without asking.

I will say though that my classmates are AMAZING. The first few weeks they were learning the rules but they still did really good. Now they almost always pretend she is not there or they will say something to me about her but it won’t get her attention in any way. Perfect! 🙂 Now we just need to teach the general population how to do this, haha. A good example of this was the other day I went to the dentist. I hadn’t been to the dentist since I got Makiko so I didn’t think about xrays. My mom was waiting in the waiting room so I took Makiko out to her and put her in a “down. stay.” She did great, Mom said. Then all of a sudden this receptionist comes out from behind her desk and is ALL over Makiko. I mean, ALL over. Mom hadn’t obviously ever been in that situation before so she didn’t really know how to react. And then, what do ya know, when it was time to get Makiko to up and work back to the room to be with me again after X-rays, Makiko got a little distracted by her. Ugh… that is PRECISELY why people aren’t supposed to do that. And then another member of the staff didn’t pet her but was talking baby talk tot her the ENTIRE appointment.  I was about to say something when the dentist came in. After a while she said, “can I pet her?” and I said “yes, thank you so much for asking. That’s super important.” and then she just pet her real quick and Makiko maintained focussed on me. Maybe that was a bit of passive-aggressiveness in me, but I was really impressed with the dentist herself and not so much with the staff. I am definitely going to say something next appointment.

Another blogger wrote a bit about this and I wanted to share it with you to show another person’s experiences with it. I have shared another part of the same blog post of hers in another blog post of mine. Here is the relevant part: “As is the bain of my existence, a well-meaning woman came up and started baby-talking to Elvis, telling him how sweet, adorable and handsome he was. Ugh. I truly feel it’s one of the rudest things well-intentioned people can do. It would creep people out if I walked up to their child without addressing the parent first, and the same applied here. Plus, most people have not been educated that ANY speaking to, or touching of, a service animal is strictly forbidden. Why? He is an animal- not a robot. If someone starts making sweet clucking or encouraging noises at him, he’s going to MOVE. A guide dog is the blind person’s wheelchair for all intents and purposes. MOVING someone’s wheelchair from where it’s accesible to the disabled person is cruel and unusual punishment. Having my dog move from where I THOUGHT I put him is a huge danger to me. That’s why it is forbidden. However, people are people, and usually ignorant when it comes to these things.

To add insult to injury, she asked ELVIS, not me, if his training was going well. I take offense to people thinking that I am training my dog. I so WISH I was training a guide dog. It’s awfully presumptive and makes me feel bad when someone doesn’t realize I have an invisible disability. Most people would think I find it flattering that I don’t appear blind. I think it’s just rude and presumptuous. I responded, “No, Elvis’ training was done 4 years ago before I lost my sight. I appreciate how cute he is, but please don’t distract him while he’s working. He is busy taking care of me right now. Thank you.” She flushed a deep shade of purple and headed off to her bike.” Blindsommelier’s blog

This kind of interaction while the dog is working does many things. The first and foremost problem is that it distracts the dog from her job and jeopardizes our safety. If she is looking at someone or something else, she might not see that step in time to warn me, or she might not see that car come out of nowhere as we are crossing the street. That could leave one or both of us killed or seriously injured, and I’m not exaggerating. It also teaches the dog that she doesn’t have to stay completely focussed and behaved in harness and she can listen to other people while in harness. Ugh, that is just so detrimental to a working guide dog team it’s ridiculous. It can also distract us from our orientation and we could get turned around easily because we are focussing on getting our dog behaved and not where we are going. Our guide dogs are our eyes, and other types of service dogs have just as critical a job to do. It is not fair to the dog or the handler to distract the dog when they have been trained for so long not to react while in harness. Next time we go in the dentist office Makiko may have a reaction to that receptionist because she remembers all the love that she gave Makiko and I will have to correct Makiko. How unfair to her is that? But she needs to learn; but she wouldn’t need to learn if the receptionist just respected our relationship. Luckily Makiko has never had a big problem like this before, but I’m saying it very well COULD happen. I would hope not with my baby though but I couldn’t entirely blame her if it did, again because of that receptionists actions.

One of my good friends who also has a guide dog recently bought a sign that says “Do Not Pet Me. I Am Working.”  (Pictured below) I have also seen, “Ignore Me, I Am A Working Guide Dog,” “Please Ask To Pet Me: Blind Dog,” and “Ask Her Before Petting Me.” However, I think that the “Ignore Me” sign isn’t direct enough about petting, the “Please Ask” one implies the dog is blind, and the third one kind of encourages that petting is an option so I would go with the “Do Not Pet Me, I Am Working,” one if I got one. It attaches to the harness directly. I have contemplated getting one of these for quite a while. I have been told by many that by the time the person has reached down to see the sign they are already petting the dog, or the people that really want to pet the dog are going to do so, sign or not. But I have also heard from others that it does detract people from petting the dog so I’m really still contemplating it.

Screen Shot 2013-06-16 at 2.08.28 AM

Another issue involving all of this is I’m still learning how to be strict with the public and loved ones. I do understand that it is crucial to our safety and our working relationship that I am strict with others, setting limits regarding their interaction with her and not allowing them to pet her randomly, but most of the time it is not like me to be confrontational. I can if you push my buttons far enough and I think the general public may have done this for me now. I will still be nice though, of course. Many people have come up to me and started petting her and I have said to many, “Actually, she is my working guide dog so if you could please not pet her that would be helpful.” Another strange encounter came to mind. The other day a lady came up to Makiko and stuck her sun hat in her face and was just wanting Makiko to smell it. It was just the strangest thing. I turned Makiko away from the woman and she got the hint. I am better about the public than I am good friends or family. I seem to have more trouble telling them no about what things they can or can’t do with her. There are some things I am absolutely strict on and they know that and seem to respect that so I just have to readdress the boundaries without offending anyone. I really hope that I don’t offend anyone but if I do, I guess I do. I need to do what is best for Makiko and I. Now don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been really relaxed at all on rules and I’m never relaxed on rules while in harness. Only times we really have issues with whether I allow something or not is off harness. There are just a few things I’m still learning and figuring out as a first time guide dog user. This is why I say being a first time guide dog user is no easy task.

In the quote from the other blogger above, she mentioned about the same woman who was super distracting to her dog was also talking to the dog about being in training. This is often something I get as well and I have addressed in another blog. It’s really reassuring though that others go through the same issues with the public that I do, although I wish none of us had to go through them of course.

It’s okay though, I love to educate others and I am patient. I will continue to educate others nicely but I will not jeopardize my working relationship with Makiko while doing so. I will speak up to whomever it is, whether it be a stranger or a loved one or friend. Here we go..

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Jessica N and Makiko

Jessica is a proud Texan. She graduated in 2014 with her Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling and is now employed. She is visually impaired and has a retinal disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa. Originally Jessica started blogging about everything from being diagnosed with the disease to where she is now, almost 9 years later. Then, Jessica went to Guide Dogs for the Blind and was blessed with Makiko, her new guide dog. Now, her blog "The Way Eye See The World" is about everything related to visual impairments, including guide dogs.

5 thoughts on “Distracting a Guide Dog and Limits with Others”

  1. For those of us who LOVE the guide dogs, the training program for guide dogs, and the people who become partnered with the guide dogs; we know the greatest act of love and respect for the dog and the handler/partner is NOT TO PET OR TALK TO THE DOG WITHOUT PERMISSION! Stay loving and firm, for Makiko’s sake, for your safety, and as an educational service for the public. I think the sign for the harness is a helpful tool, and sad that it is needed.

    1. Wow, that was beautifully worded! I totally agree! I do need to stay firm for all of those reasons. Your comment also made me really think about respect. Makiko really is just an extension of me and by not respecting the rules with her, they are not respecting me, not to mention that they slow us down and make us have to rework things that she otherwise has mastered. I always love your comments! Thanks so much! I am honored you are following my blog.

  2. Ha, I guess the other blogger doesn’t have kids, because strangers do the exact same thing to children, walk up and talk to or even touch them without permission or while ignoring the parents. Also they think they have permission to just touch you if you’re pregnant. Some people don’t have any boundaries at all, and you’re right, it’s harder with people you know a little than with strangers!

    1. Hey Katie! Thanks for your comment! Actually the person who commented before you is the Mom of the beautiful lady that raised Makiko. I do understand that people do the same thing. That’s a good comparison! 🙂

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