Guide Dogs don't understand physical distancing. Please help us keep a safe distance.

Canadians urged to keep safe distance from guide dog teams

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(Carleton Place – Apr. 20, 2020) – CNIB Guide Dogs is urging Canadians to keep a safe distance from guide dog teams. Lives may depend on it.

“Physical distancing is practically impossible when you cannot see, so we’re asking Canadians to please stay two metres away if you are approaching a guide dog team,” says Diane Bergeron, president of CNIB Guide Dogs and handler to Carla, a two-year-old golden retriever. “Carla has been trained to keep me safe, to get me from A to B, but she does not understand physical distancing.” 

Guide dogs have important jobs to do - keeping their handlers safe. Unfortunately, guide dogs are often distracted by well-intentioned people who want to pet the dog or just say hello. 

“Many people don't know how to react to a guide dog,” says Bergeron. “Practising proper guide dog etiquette is important year-round, but especially during this pandemic.”

Guide dog etiquette:

  • Harness on means hands off. A guide dog in harness means “I’m working". Petting can take the dog’s focus off its partner and the potential for injury increases. 
  • Contain your excitement. Don't encourage excitable play with a guide dog. Staying calm is part of their job.
  • Say "hello" another time. If you're walking your pet dog and you approach a guide dog, keep your pet dog away to avoid a distraction for the guide dog and possible harm to the partnership. Always keep your pet dog on a leash.
  • Don't feed them. Offering food to the dog can result in disruptive behaviours like begging for food and scavenging off the ground.

“It’s always best to ignore a guide dog in harness,” says Bergeron. “When guide dogs are home, their harnesses come off – that is their time for belly rubs and play.” 

About CNIB Guide Dogs
At CNIB Guide Dogs, we raise, train and match dogs with Canadians who are blind or partially sighted. We also raise our voices to ensure people with sight loss have opportunities to live, work and play without barriers. We’re committed to ensuring social attitudes shift to universal acceptance and appreciation for guide dogs. To learn more, visit:

Media contact:

Devin Sturge
CNIB Guide Dogs
(902) 401-0486

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