Service Dog Do’s and Don’ts

Written by: Alice McGowen and Annie

Don’t call out to, make noises at, or maintain eye contact with a working dog when you encounter it. He could seriously injure his partner if he’s suddenly distracted in mid-task. When in harness, the dog is “on duty” and needs to stay focused on what his human partner needs him to do.
Do not reach out to pet or grab a working dog. When that harness is on, the dog is “on duty,” even if he is lying quietly at his side. If you absolutely cannot resist, ask the person first if you may pet the dog. And do not be disappointed if he/she says no. There may be a very good reason why petting is not appropriate at that time.

If a person gives you permission to pet his dog once, don’t automatically assume you can pet the dog every time you see it. It is not a pet, and when on duty, the dog must have permission every time to interact with someone.
Please keep an eye on your children. Just because a working dog has a friendly disposition does not mean it is ok for a child to just come up and grab him. Teach your child that the dog is working, and if they want to pet him, they have to ask the handler first.
Please keep an eye on your own dog when meeting a working dog. Even though these dogs are highly trained, remember that these dogs are trained to take care of their human. And they may consider your dog a threat to them, even if it is not.
Don’t give a working dog commands. He could become confused if too many people try to tell him what to do. He needs to focus on – and obey – only his human.

Don’t offer a working dog “people food”. His own dog food is nutritionally balanced. And, when the dog is working in public places like a grocery stores or restaurants, it’s most important that he is not distracted by food.
Don’t be alarmed if you hear the dog being told to “Hurry Up”. Working dogs have commands for toileting. Remember, too that the handler cleans up after the dog, and he/she must make sure the dog leaves the droppings in easy pick-up reach.
Don’t interfere with the dog’s handler. He/she has been properly trained to deal with the dog if a mistake has been made.
Don’t assume that a person with a dog in harness is blind. Guide Dogs have been around for over 70 years assisting visually impaired people. But there are Signal Dogs trained to assist people who are hearing-impaired and Service Dogs who help mobility-impaired people. And Medical Alert Dogs who alert to the onset of a medical condition. Some of these dogs do not need to be in harness but wear a vest or scarf showing that they are a working

If you have any questions or concerns about a dog, please ask the handler. These dogs are beautiful animals, not only in terms of how they look, but in the way they work with their human partners. People who use canine assistance are happy to talk about their helpers!

When you encounter a canine team in public: please direct your attention to the person, not the dog. By observing the rules of working dog protocol, it fosters better relations with the disabled community, and you won’t be getting an assistance dog in trouble for your mistake of distracting him
when he’s on duty.

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