Why distracting guide dogs can be dangerous for their owners

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Joe Coshan

A campaign is underway to make sure people understand the importance of not distracting guide dogs when they are working with their owners.

It comes as the charity Guide Dogs say 71% of the animals are distracted by strangers at least once a day.

From stopping to pat or stroke a dog to trying to feed it, these actions can break their concentration and bond with the owner, which is vital. 

Linda Johnson is a guide dog handler from Margate, she says she and her dog Iggy are put at risk nearly every day.

"It's quite scary, I have to be honest. I rely on her 100%, she is my eyes at the end of the day.

"Somebody that was getting off the train stopped, bent down and started to stroke Iggy.

"I did actually get quite cross as my guide dog is trying to judge the platform and the gap to get me onto the train safely. That really scared me.

"If anything did go wrong there, I don't think I'd be standing here today."

Lisa says people regularly distract her guide dog Credit: ITV News Meridian

Linda's warning comes at the start of a national 'Don't Dive on the Dog' campaign by the Guide Dogs charity.

  • Watch the full interview with Clive Wood from the Guide Dogs charity

Dr Amy Kavanagh has also had to battle distractions first hand and she captures them on a camera attached to her guide dog Ava.

Amy said: "It can take a while to get Ava back into work mode again. In some of the videos you can see how disruptive it is.

"Ava has to shake it off, she'll stop in the middle of the street. What feels like a sneaky chin tickle can take away someone's independence."

What was a polite request has become a regular frustrating and sometimes frightening occurrence for Ava and Linda.

They hope this new campaign will help more people to understand that it's not just a harmless head stroke when their dogs are trying to work.