IntroductionThis study is entitled, “Jingle Bells”: How do bells affect the well-being, safety, and identity of guide dog teams? Some visually impaired individuals will attach a small bell to their guide dog’s collar in order to locate them acoustically, yet existing literature on this topic is lacking. This research analysed how bells can impact the well-being, communication, and safety of guide dog teams. The ways in which bells alter and are entangled with personal, social, collective identities was explored.
MethodsThis study was conducted from 2017 until 2019, drawing in part from autobiographical data which predated it. Results are based on autoethnographic data from my six years as a professional guide dog mobility instructor and 12 anonymous online survey responses from participants who have lived with a guide dog.
OutcomesSome interlocutors stated that bells irritate them, their guide dogs, and the general public. Others did not mind it and felt it was a great assistance. Subtleties in how the bell is heard can also greatly assist in how the human communicates with their guide dog. This paper concludes that, although bells can offer benefits, they are not a solution for all guide dog teams. Alternatives such as collar tags, GPS devices, walking with sighted volunteers or training guide dogs to nudge their human partner’s hand when called are addressed.
PublicationThis study has been accepted for publication in the journal Society & Animals:
Warda, T. (forthcoming). “Jingle Bells”: How do bells affect the well-being, safety, and identity of guide dog teams? Society & Animals.