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Survey reveals half of Canberra’s guide dogs are being attacked by other dogs

By Glynis Quinlan 22 April 2018 20

A photo supplied by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT shows a guide dog walking past a pet dog being correctly kept on a lead and under control by its owner.

Dogs off the lead are posing a danger to working guide dogs with one in two handlers in the ACT and NSW reporting that their guide dog was attacked by another dog.

A new client survey by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT found that 78 per cent of these attacks were carried out by off-lead dogs, with dogs on a lead but not controlled by their owner responsible for the other 22 per cent of attacks.

When asked when the most recent attack had occurred, more than half (52 per cent) of those who reported attacks said it occurred within the last year.

One-third (34 per cent) of those who reported an attack said it resulted in injuries to their guide dog, with one guide dog retired as a result of the trauma.

In response to the high number of attacks, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT has launched a new ‘In Your Hands’ campaign designed to raise community awareness about the safety of guide dogs being in the hands of dog owners.

The campaign is encouraging pet owners to keep their dogs on-lead when out in public and to follow simple ‘guide dog etiquette’.

“We want to raise awareness of the danger off-lead pet dogs pose to working guide dogs and their handlers, and educate the community about the importance of keeping pet dogs on leads and under control when in public areas and particularly when around guide dogs,” said Dale Cleaver, CEO of Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

A photo supplied by Guide Dogs NSW/ACT showing what not to do – with the pet dog not on a lead.

Dave and Corrie’s tale of attacks

Queanbeyan-based guide dog handler, Dave Brown knows all too well the danger off-lead dogs can pose to the safety of his guide dog Corrie.

“I’ve only had Corrie, my first guide dog, for less than a year and we’ve already experienced lots of distractions from other pet dogs and even a few attacks,” Mr Brown said.

“The worst situation was when a pet dog launched at Corrie and shoved himself between us so suddenly that I had to let go of Corrie’s harness.

“Even if a dog doesn’t directly attack your guide dog, the distraction enough can be dangerous for the handler,” he said.

“Worst-case scenario I could be pushed onto a road and in front of a bus, but more often than not it just disrupts my day and affects my guide dog’s training.

“If Corrie gets distracted by a pet dog, sometimes I have to spend a week working with him to reinforce his training.

“My main piece of advice to dog owners would be to keep your dog on lead and under control when out in public, and if you see a guide dog and their handler, give them space and try to not let your dog interact with them.”

Everyday distractions from other dogs causing anxiety

Aside from attacks, the survey also revealed working guide dogs experience high levels of everyday distractions from other dogs, causing their handler who is blind or vision impaired to experience anxiety and a loss of confidence, as well as compromising their safety and independence.

Once again, dogs not on leads are the major problem, with 80 per cent of guide dog handlers surveyed saying off-lead dogs had distracted their guide dogs while working. Other distractions guide dog handlers reported include:

  • unaccompanied dogs tied up outside shops and cafes;
  • a person with a dog approaching a guide dog team without making themselves known;
  • dogs on-lead not being controlled by their owners;
  • barking dogs behind fences;
  • dogs tied up on parked utes in rural areas.

One-third of the guide dog handlers surveyed said they now avoid certain locations known for dog-related problems.

“It’s really worrying that so many guide dogs are still being attacked or distracted by off-lead pet dogs, especially when this is a recurrent topic amongst our community awareness campaigns,” Mr Cleaver said.

“Guide dogs play a vital role in enabling people who are blind or vision impaired to move around their community independently.

“Attacks and distractions compromise this independence and can cause serious injury and trauma to both the handler and the guide dog.

“In rare serious cases, attacks can result in premature retirement of a guide dog, which costs more than $35,000 to train,” Mr Cleaver said.

“We’re reminding dog owners across NSW and the ACT that the safety of guide dogs and handlers is very much in your hands. By keeping control of your own dog, you can help create a safe community, not just for guide dogs and their handlers, but for everyone.”

Dos and Don’ts

The ‘dos and don’ts’ of the campaign include:

  • keep your pet dog on a leash and under control when out and about
  • if you see a loose dog, please alert your local council
  • if you see a working guide dog in harness, please give it and its handler space
  • don’t pat, feed or otherwise distract a working guide dog. A well-intentioned pat can undo months of training.

Click here for more information about the campaign.

Are you alarmed that so many guide dogs are being attacked by other dogs? Do you think too many dog owners are being careless when it comes to keeping their dogs on leads? Let us know in the comments below.


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20 Responses to
Survey reveals half of Canberra’s guide dogs are being attacked by other dogs
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Kali 1:07 pm 10 Jul 18

“keep your pet dog on a leash and under control when out and about”
Seems to be a very little-known rule in Canberra….especially when entering or exiting our lovely dog parks. C’Mon people….on a leash until you are inside the park!

Stephanie Tyrrell 12:37 am 24 Apr 18

There are designated off-leash areas; if you're not in one of those areas, put a leash on your dog. It's pure arrogance and ignorance not to. If the handler can't obey a simple legal requirement how do they think they've trained their dog well enough to be off-lead?

Kristy Miller 7:02 pm 23 Apr 18

Should be illegal to walk any dog accept for a fully trained one off a leash.

Ally Ryan 1:37 pm 23 Apr 18

Having two very large dogs keeps most people away from us and they are ALWAYS on lead. I’m forever surprised by the “special” person who thinks it’s ok to not control and protect their animals and allow their dogs off lead and then have the hide to have a go about how my dogs are dangerous just because of their breed. Meanwhile theirs is merrily running around causing mayhem and stress for my boys. - 🤦‍♀️

On lead is the only way to have a dog out in the public

Mike of Canberra 11:23 am 23 Apr 18

To Chele Forest, couldn’t agree more. We are lucky enough to have a decent backyard and thus have two very happy little dogs. Unfortunately, our sort of property no longer appears to be in vogue politically in Canberra.

Chele Forest 6:07 pm 22 Apr 18

Would be awesome if the off lead dogs had somewhere they could be off lead without anyone having to worry about them.. somewhere like a yard at the back of their place that is big enough to run around in. Oh wait, property sizes are too small for yard space at back of property.

Mike of Canberra 6:03 pm 22 Apr 18

“Other distractions guide dog handlers reported included……
. barking dogs behind fences”.

If my dog is behind a fence or gate and securely contained within my property and this still disturbs your guide dog, then find another route.

Julia Ballat 4:31 pm 22 Apr 18

How terrible for someone with a guide dog to have to deal with this. I have dogs that have been on leash when attacked by off leash dogs... either the owner is out of sight at the time or more often nearby saying ' dont worry, my dogs just friendly/wants to play/ is only young'. Its caused physiological trauma to my dogs and i find myself stressed when other dogs approach. How dreadful for someone visually impaired! Yes, there is a problem with off leash dogs who are not under adequate control.

Kris Watson 3:36 pm 22 Apr 18

Couldn’t give a rats ass how friendly other people think their pets are. You don’t know my dog or how it will react, keep your dog away from mine unless you have asked and been granted permission from me for it to approach, my dog doesn’t like being approached by other animals when out walking and is on a lead for a reason.

Karen Vickery 3:05 pm 22 Apr 18

Jordan Best it’s an epidemic!

Sheridan Traise Brill 3:01 pm 22 Apr 18

I’m shocked at the number of dogs who are off lead. It can be quite intimidating for my dogs and me, when we’re constantly approached my random dogs when we’re out for a walk. I don’t care how well trained or friendly people think their dogs are, they’re still animals and are still unpredictable. Most of us believe our pets would never harm another dog or person but we can’t absolutely guarantee it. People should just obey the laws, this would greatly reduce or possibly eliminate dog attacks.

Obviously when in designated ‘off lead’ areas, then it’s okay but owners still need to be hyper vigilant, both for their dog and other dogs’ safety.

    Natasha Davidson 3:17 pm 22 Apr 18

    Couldn’t agree with you more Sheridan. I had a random dog come at Charlie, Krypto and I when Charlie was a pup. It scared us quite a bit!

    Sheridan Traise Brill 3:22 pm 22 Apr 18

    Almost every day when I walk the dogs we are either approached by a random dog (whose owner yells out not to worry, that their dog is friendly 😡) or we have to change the direction we’re going to avoid random dogs. It’s not hard to put a lead on your dog.

    Marko Lehikoinen 6:58 am 23 Apr 18

    Who cares if the other person's dog is friendly or not, ours who is leashed may feel intimidated when aporoached uninvited and a fight could break out. Keep your dog under control and if voice commands don't work, put the lead on them.

    Sheridan Traise Brill 6:59 am 23 Apr 18

    Marko Lehikoinen or better yet, unless you’re in a designated off lead area, obey the law and have your dog on a lead.

    Amanda Caldwell 7:53 am 23 Apr 18

    Sheridan Traise Brill I agree. Other people don’t seem to understand that it isn’t about ‘their’ dog, it’s about the interaction BETWEEN the animals that is important, and often that doesn’t go well. If an owner is keeping their dog on a lead near an off lead area (because that is where their walk takes them) others should be sensible and control their dogs.

Paal Burnett 12:44 pm 22 Apr 18

Many owner believe their dogs are friendly when in fact they are poorly socialised untrained stressed out mutts. I don’t like to take my dog to such a threatening environments! It would be like taking your kid to a school where everyone runs about with sticks! ‘There are going to be tears!’

Duncan Hinton 9:42 am 22 Apr 18

depends on how well trained the dog off lead is

Melinda Parrett 8:15 am 22 Apr 18

A portion yes

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