The feeling of joy and excitement when we see service dogs is almost uncontainable. Most of us love dogs and love to see them out in public while we’re eating, shopping and going about our lives. They’re novel, fluffy and well behaved, and ohhhhhhh we just want to pet it so much! That being said, the people that have service dogs have to deal with this excitement with almost everybody they meet. It’s ok to be excited, but there are a few things everybody should know about service dogs and how to behave around them.
Don’t distract a service dog. This could mean talking to the dog, trying to pet the dog or even leaning in over the dog. The service dog is there to perform a job, and that job is often lifesaving. Distracting the dog could be detrimental to the handler, and could even be fatal.
Always ask before you try to pet a service dog. Sometimes the handler will allow you to, and sometimes they won’t. Trust that the handler knows best, and don’t be offended if the handler would prefer that the dog stay focused on their job.
You are legally allowed to ask 2 questions to a service dog handler about their dog: Is that a service dog? What job does he/she do for you? The handler is not legally required to carry around any identification for the service dog, and asking any more questions about the dog’s certification or identity is illegal.
Try to give the handler and the dog some space. Sometimes it can be exhausting to go out in public with a service dog because one is often bombarded with questions and interest. It’s normal to be excited, but try to remember to be sensitive and to leave the handler alone if they seem tired.
Teach your kids to respect service dogs. Many kids grow up without knowing that a service dog has a very important job and that they need space to preform that job. If you are with a child that gets excited at the site of a dog, take the time to explain to them that the dog is working on something very important and needs to be respected. Trust me, service dog owners with thank you.
Most of us don’t encounter service dogs every day, but when we do it’s extremely important to act respectfully and kindly to the service dog team and to be sensitive to their needs. It’s ok to get excited, but keeping these 5 things in mind can make a world of difference.