Service dog etiquette - what to do and what not to do
The urge to approach a cute and well-behaved service dog is a hard one to ignore. After all, what’s not to love about an adorable pup who's trained to save lives? However, petting a working dog is a more sensitive situation that you might think. Courtesy of Whiskey’s Wish, here’s a quick guide to service dog etiquette.
Firstly, it’s important to remember that a service dog is not a pet - it is a working dog with a responsibility and loyalty to keep its owner/handler safe. Their job is to care for and watch over someone with a disability or condition - whether it be their vision, hearing, PTSD or something like autism.
So before you approach a service dog, make sure you follow these simple rules.
- Always make sure you speak to the handler/owner first, not the dog.
- If you just can't resist, ask the handler/owner if you can pet the dog. Some may allow it, and that’s ok, but it has be on their terms. Please do not pet the dog without permission.
- Always give way to the service dog and their owner/handler. A disability may not always be visible, but they are likely to be less mobile than you are.
- Do not feed the dog.
- Do not ask the handler/owner about his or her disability. He or she may already be under stress from being out in public.
- Do not purposely distract the dog, or try to take its attention away from the owner/handler. By distracting the dog, you could potentially be putting their owner/handler in danger. Any unexpected attention, such as waving your hand at the dog, could severely delay the dog’s ability to pick up commands, respond to situations and aid their owner.
This information was kindly provided by Whiskey’s Wish - a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to supplying fully-trained Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) service dogs to veterans and first responders.