How to Politely Interact with a Service Dog Team

Posted by

Any service dog handler can tell you that their grocery store trips have gotten significantly longer since getting their dog. When you have a service dog, people feel more comfortable talking to you and asking you questions about the dog, your medical history, and your personal life.

While many service dog handlers are fine with making small talk about their dog or answering some polite questions, it's easy to go too far and either distract the dog or offend the handler. This can even be dangerous at times for the well-being of the handler and dog. Here are some basic tips on interacting with a service dog team.

1. Talk to the handler, not the dog.

If a service dog is in public, that means that they are working. It is medically dangerous to distract a service dog. A guide dog could easily lead their handler into an obstacle if someone were to come up to them and pet them, or a mobility assistance dog's handler could fall if the dog is too distracted to help them balance. A service dog will know that it is their job to focus on the handler, but it is still hard for them to focus if someone is petting them without permission!

2. It is nothing against you if a service dog handler doesn't want to talk to you.

If the service dog handler is in a rush, it is hard to stop to talk to everyone who wants to ask questions. Some handlers are more receptive to discussing their dog with strangers than others. It is not the handler's job to stop and talk to everyone who wants to ask them questions. They're simply trying to get through their day.

3. Always ask to pet, even if you have asked before.

If the woman you see with a service dog lets you pet her dog one day, that doesn't mean that the next time you see the dog you can immediately pet him again. In fact, it doesn't even necessarily mean that you can pet the dog again ten minutes later. If you'd like to talk to or pet the dog, just ask every time. It is the most polite way to do it, and the least distracting to the dog!

4. Don't ask questions you wouldn't want to answer yourself.

While you might be curious about the handler's medical history or why they have their dog, keep in mind that the questions you might want to ask are extremely personal. Everything you're really curious about can probably be found on the Internet.

5. Keep an eye on your children.

If your child is running up to the dog yelling "PUPPY!" or barking at the dog from across the room, it can be extremely distracting and dangerous to the service dog team. Keep an eye on your children. You can even tell them what a service dog does and why it is important to not distract the dog.

6. Don't make assumptions.

Even if you don't think that the service dog handler looks disabled, do not assume that their dog is being trained for someone else or that they're bringing in a fake service dog. In addition to the guide dogs that most people are familiar with, service dogs can be used for medical alert, mobility assistance, and psychiatric support, just to name a few conditions service dogs can be beneficial for. Furthermore, service dogs come in all shapes and sizes! Don't be surprised if you see a service chihuahua or service poodle instead of the lab or Golden Retriever you may be expecting.

For more information about products for the service dog team in your life, visit our shopping page

comments powered by Disqus