Guide dogs owners plead for pet leashes

If you see a working guide dog in harness, give it and its handler plenty of space.
If you see a working guide dog in harness, give it and its handler plenty of space.

A partially-blind Sydney woman who relies on her four-legged best friend to survive is pleading with pet owners to keep their dogs on a leash.

It comes after a survey found 80 per cent of guide dogs have been attacked by unleashed dogs, prompting Guide Dogs NSW/ACT to launch the In Your Hands campaign.

Guide dog handler Liz Wheeler, who only has five per cent vision, recalls her own traumatic experience when she was trapped on the road with her labrador guide dog Poppi as two small unleashed dogs tried to maul her pooch.

"The owner was there but he was unable to control them," Ms Wheeler told AAP on Thursday.

"She (Poppi) never got aggressive back, she just kept trying to get away."

Poppi received some nasty bites on her belly in the altercation, and despite this, the guide dog managed to guide a disoriented, confused and in-shock Ms Wheeler home.

Before Poppi came into her life three years ago, Ms Wheeler says she wasn't able to leave her house, cross the road or even cook, as her sight deteriorated.

"Things had got quite dire but within three months (after receiving Poppi) life had just turned around," Ms Wheeler said.

"I trust her with my life."

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT chief executive Dale Cleaver said attacks and distractions compromise the safety and independence of both the handler and guide dog.

The In Your Hands campaign aims to make the public aware of keeping dogs on their leashes and in control when around working guide dogs, Mr Cleaver said.

Aside from attacks, the survey also revealed working guide dogs experience high levels of everyday distractions from other dogs, causing their handlers to experience anxiety, a loss of confidence, and have their safety and independence compromised.

A further 22 per cent of attacks were by dogs on a leash, but not controlled by the owner, the survey revealed.

WHAT TO DO AND NOT DO AROUND A GUIDE DOG:

* 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.

* When approaching a guide dog team with your dog, please clearly introduce yourself to the person and say you have a dog with you.

Australian Associated Press