Guiding Emotions

Emotional Labour

My practical experiences as a former guide dog instructor for six years, opened my eyes to the emotion management inherent in the work of both guide dogs and instructors. This motivated my PhD research on the topic with the hope of contributing to future developments in the sector toward humane labour. This research is entitled, "Guiding Emotions: Defining and analysing emotional labour in relationships between guide dogs and their instructors". As culture and geographic location, for example, can greatly impact emotional labour practices, this research focuses on guide dogs and instructors in Ireland.

A three-minute thesis on the topic of this research:

A talk sharing an initial summary of outcomes at the ISAZ 2021 conference:

Interspecies Solidarity

Coulter (2016: 152) proposes that interspecies solidarity acts as a promise to "envision and implement" improved labour practices for human and other animal workers to unify the well-being of both. My aim, as a researcher, is to practice interspecies solidarity to the best of my ability in both how I conduct fieldwork and write up my work.

Who is this benefiting? 

The data collection of this research itself has proven to act as a form of "resistant intervention" (Sutton, 2020: 11). Multiple guide dog instructors expressed that the canine-centric questions I posed motivated them to think differently about the emotions of their guide dog co-workers in ways that they had not in their between ten and forty years of working in the sector. This research intends to offer outcomes which can be applied in diverse, practical, and meaningful ways within the guide dog sector. At its core, defining emotional labour of all species, especially dogs who tend to be over romanticised as our voluntary "best friends", can play an important part in defining what they offer us as work. The first step toward furthering humane labour practices within the guide dog sector is acknowledging both the emotional and physical work which guide dogs perform.

Data collection

As was the case for most research conducted at any point in 2020-2021, the Covid-19 pandemic meant entirely redesigning my research. Instead of the in-person multispecies ethnography I had initially planned, I was presented with the opportunity to find alternative ways of conducting interspecific, qualitative research. I decided to utilise autobiographical reflections on my career and experiences as a GDMI to form a six year-long multispecies autoethnography on the topic of this research, combined with interviews with a wide variety of interlocutors.