Saturday, 22 August 2015
05:07:45 PM (GMT)
Many people approach Service Dog handlers out of
simple curiosity. Not everyone has
bad intentions. Even though it can be repetitive and tiresome to hear 20 times a day
how somebody has a dog ‘just like yours’ or wishes their dog was as well trained
or has a distant relative who has a Service Dog, the general public can often not
realise this. Here I will discuss simple Service Dog etiquette. For the sake of
handlers everywhere, please take these points into account:
Do NOT pet the dog without permission. As a rule of thumb it is best not to ask to
pet the dog at all, they are working and if distracted they can fail to perform
important tasks such as alerting to medical emergencies. There have been instances
which people have suffered seizures after their Service Dogs have been distracted
from alerting them. It is dangerous to distract a Service Dog.
READ THE PATCHES! Service Dogs do not just wear those glaring bright patches that
read 'Do Not Pet’ to look pretty. Please read and respect them.
Do not allow your dog to approach a Service Dog if it is working. If you are in
ASK whether it is alright for you to introduce your dog. This is especially
if your dog is unruly or aggressive. If a Service Dog is injured by another dog you
are seriously affecting the independence of the handler. If a Service Dog is injured
it is unable to work. If the dog is unable to work, the handler may be rendered
unable to do everyday tasks for a long period of time. It’s not worth the risk.
Never feed a Service Dog. A lot of dogs are on specialized diets and may have
conditions that make them unable to tolerate certain foods. I have had a dog with
years of pancreatitis and hypothyroidism - if somebody fed him anything remotely
in fat he would become so seriously ill that his life was in danger. Do NOT feed
other people’s dogs. You don’t know their health conditions or dietary
requirements. Regardless of health, it is also a distraction.
Speak to the person, not the dog. Handlers often find that they are 'invisible’
when they have their dog. People always address the dog first and show interest in
the dog, but not the person. This can be regarded as rude and a tad disrespectful.
Consider the handler.
Don’t whistle, call out or harass a Service Dog. This is a distraction and as
mentioned before, distractions are dangerous.
Make sure your children don’t approach or pet a Service Dog. This is a distraction
and even though it may appear 'cute’ or 'funny’ it’s still dangerous. On more
general terms it is also a good idea to educate your children on how to approach a
dog correctly. Although Service Dogs are no risk to people, children should be
not to rush over to unfamiliar dogs. Not all dogs are friendly and you do not want
your child to get hurt by an aggressive or anxious dog.
Do not assume the disability of the handler or ask what their disability is. Quite
frankly, that is private and personal. You wouldn’t ask somebody why they are in a
wheelchair, so you most certainly shouldn’t ask why they have a Service Animal.
everyone with a Service Dog is deaf or blind. Be respectful of the different
disabilities out there and treat the person as you would treat any other. Some
may not mind offers for help, but a great deal are happy to be left to get on with
their day with the help of their Service Dog.
Be respectful of the dog. You may not like animals or be fearful of dogs. That is
alright, but it is important to recognise that Service Dogs are highly trained. They
would NOT be a Service Dog if they are aggressive or in any way a risk to people.
These dogs are valued family members that are clean, gentle and just trying to get
their job done. Most handlers will do their best to keep their dog at a distance to
you if you are uncomfortable with them, but this is not always possible. It is rude
(and illegal) to ask someone with a Service Dog to move or leave the premises
you don’t like dogs, 'have allergies’ or are fearful of them. Compromises can be
met, but please have some respect.
Do not be rude to the handler if they don’t permit you to touch their dog or ask
you not to distract them. They have a good reason for asking this.
Do not ask a Service Dog handler to have their dog 'demonstrate’ a task.
Do not take pictures or record a Service Dog without the handler’s permission.
Be considerate about the comments you make. 'But you’re so young!’, 'Are you
training him?’, 'I wish I could take my dog everywhere, that’s so cool!’, 'You
don’t look disabled’, 'You must be faking it’, 'Are you blind?’ They may
innocent to you but are invasive to a handler. Put yourself in their shoes.