How to behave with a guide dog

In the US, people accompanied by a guide dog have the legal right to go anywhere the general public is allowed.

Guide dog organizations carefully match dogs (frequently Labradors and Golden Retrievers) with people who have already acquired good orientation and mobility skills and are able to travel independently using a guide cane. If you are visually impaired, our orientation and mobility instructors can teach you to navigate familiar and unfamiliar places, indoors and outside.

Once they are partnered, the handlers take charge, issuing directional commands to their guide dogs. The dogs help their owners to travel safely from one location to another by maneuvering them around obstacles both on the ground and above, such as steps, other pedestrians and overhanging tree limbs.

Guide dog etiquette

  • Do not distract a working guide dog. Don’t touch, talk to, or feed a working dog whose responsibility it is to keep their owner safe. With the owner’s permission, you may pet a guide dog when it is out of the harness and off duty. Stroke the dog’s shoulder, not the head.
  • Talk to the owner, not the dog. If you only greet the guide dog, it shows a lack respect to the owner.
  • If you are walking with a guide dog team don’t touch or try to steer the person, or hold the dog’s harness. Only the owner should command the dog. Ask where you should walk to avoid confusing the dog—ahead, behind or to their right. You can offer your arm to the person if they would like you to guide them.
  • Don’t honk or otherwise distract a guide dog owner at intersections. The person may be listening for traffic flow to determine when it’s safe to give the guide dog the command to cross the street. If you are on foot and the person looks like they might need assistance, you can offer assistance or ask if they need directions.

For information about Lighthouse Guild Orientation and Mobility instruction: Call 212-769-6299


The New York State Commission for the Blind: NYSCB provides information about guide dog schools in New York State.

The National Association of Guide Dog Users: NAGDU is a division of the National Federation of the Blind.

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