Waffle the guide dog
STRATHEARN guide dog owners have appealed for people to think before stopping to pet their dogs.
Jacky Hart, from Monzievaird, and Alistair Lyle, from Crieff – who are both visually impaired – have had a few frightening experiences when people have approached their dogs unexpectedly.
“People are dog lovers and it is their instinct to approach them,” said Jacky, “but as with any dog, you should ask the owner first. And because we can’t see people approaching, it can be very scary when suddenly someone is looming in front of us to talk to our dog.
“It is great that people take an interest in the dogs, but please do so in the correct manner.”
When guide dogs have a yellow harness on, they are working. Young dogs can be easily distracted and Jacky explained that often people think she is being rude when she asks them not to pet her dog when it is working.
She said: “It can also be frustrating if people continue to touch the dog without paying any attention to what you are saying.
“I had my dog dragged across the High Street in Perth one day because a man wanted his three children to see it even though I tried to explain the dog was working.
“It is just common etiquette to ask first and most times we will say yes. If we say no it is because the dog is working and we are in a hurry to get somewhere.”
Alistair added: “If you see a guide dog and want to clap it - think first before you act. People don’t seem to realise that the dog is an extension of us and is effectively our eyes so anyone interfering with the dog could be compromising our safety. You don’t always know, as with any dog, how it will receive the attention.”
Paul Garty, Dog Care and Welfare Advisor of Guide Dogs Scotland, also warned on the danger of strangers feeding dogs with “treats”.
He said: “Guide dogs are fed carefully balanced complete diets containing all their essential vitamins and nutrients to keep them healthy. From a very young age, they are encouraged to ignore ‘temptations’ when they are in social situations.
“Obesity is one of the biggest issues dealt with by vets across the country with pet dogs. Obesity can lead to heart disease, arthritic problems, diabetes, increased risk under a general anaesthetic and an overall reduced life expectancy.
“Guide dogs are no different. Tempting them with titbits encourages them to look for food and not where they are going so for all the reasons mentioned please do not feed a working guide dog in any situation.”