When You Meet a Leader Dog

A yellow lab wearing Leader Dog harness sits on a sidewalk looking at the camera. A person whose legs and feet are visible stands behind the dog holding the leash

Leader Dogs provide independent travel for thousands of people around the world. Whether you know someone who works with a Leader Dog or just want to know how to react when you encounter one, you can help Leader Dogs and their handlers travel safely by following some simple suggestions.

When you meet a Leader Dog, remember:

  • A Leader Dog is a working dog and should not be petted or called without its handler’s permission. A Leader Dog is on duty when in harness, even when sitting or lying down.
  • Avoid making eye contact with a working dog. Eye contact is still a form of attention and may distract the dog from it work.
  • Do not take hold of the Leader Dog or its harness without permission. If it looks like the guide dog handler needs assistance, ask the handler before taking any action.
  • When providing directions to a guide dog handler, speak to the person, not the dog. Be sure to use specific, easy-to-follow indicators like, “Go north two blocks, then east,” or “Turn left at the next curb and go two blocks.”
  • Please do not feed a Leader Dog, whether it is on or off duty. Leader Dogs follow a veterinarian-prescribed diet.
  • A Leader Dog team has the right of way and, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, is required to be allowed access everywhere the public is allowed. You can learn more about service dog rights under the ADA from the frequently asked questions answered by the U.S. Department of Justice.

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