YOU CAN LOOK, BUT YOU CAN’T TOUCH Guide and therapy dogs are hard-working animals that need to be respected regardless of how cute they look. Photo: Jonathan Rees

Your Guide to Guide Dogs

CHRISTOPHER JOUBERT

Stellenbosch is home to some of the goodest and hardest working boys and girls out there. We’ve all been baffled at how these boys and girls resist the urge to chase the hundreds of squirrels that crawl around the town.

So how do they do it? How do guide dogs manage to resist the temptation of chasing squirrels and getting pats from the hun­dreds of dog-lovers on campus? how should students treat these furry friends? Welcome to Die Mat­ie’s guide on guide dog etiquette.

Loandrie Potgieter, who uses and owns a guide dog, provided her insights on the process these dogs go through before becoming guide dogs.

Every guide dog you’ve seen on campus has been through a thorough process to ensure that they are properly trained and com­petent enough to guide a visually impaired human around campus.

Firstly, a carefully bred puppy is raised by a family for one year. This family follows strict rules to ensure that the puppy is socialised and well behaved and won’t be tempted to chase squirrels.

After one year, the pup goes to formal guide dog training for six months.

Then, the dog gets matched up with someone to guide. Once someone is matched with a guide dog, they must complete four weeks of training together.

Guide dogs choose to become guides. Guide dog programs de­termine whether a dog is unwill­ing or uncommitted to the career and if this is the case, the dogs live a happy domestic life instead. If they are committed, they then go on to graduate and enjoy their ca­reers.

Potgieter spoke of some of the ways her guide dog helps her dai­ly. These dogs will do far more than sit or fetch. Commands range from left, right, find the curb or, after one day of training together, leading Potgieter to room 223 in the BA building after being told “223”.

According to Potgieter, one of the golden rules of guide dog etiquette is to never feed a guide dog. “The way to their hearts is truly through their tummies and they profess loyalty to whoever feeds them,” she says. Therefore, it should only be the owner who feeds the dog.

It is important to ask before try­ing to pat a guide dog. The dogs are at work while their harnesses are on and must not be distracted. Furthermore, it’s rude to ignore the owner, so say hello to them first.

The last piece of etiquette in this guide, is that when a guide dog ap­proaches you without their owner, it means their owner is in trouble and you should follow the dog to help.

Potgieter says that Stellenbosch University has a positive attitude towards guide dogs.

“[The University] acknowledg­es the value they [guide dogs] add to disabled students lives,” said Potgieter.

However, she says that this view is not always shared in “the rest of society”, with access to some buildings and restaurants being denied to guide dogs.

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