6 Tips For Interacting With Service Animals

Service dogs are usually the best-behaved, friendliest, and most well-trained dogs you’ll ever meet. While that may make it extra tempting to run over and start petting them, there are certain things you should know about interacting with service dogs. They are, after all, there to provide a service to their owners, and you don’t want to interfere. With that in mind, here are 6 tips for interacting with service dogs.

#1 – Never touch, pet, or give treats to service dogs

At least not without asking the dog’s person first. Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks to assist people with various disabilities. They’re working, and they need to be focused on what their person needs. Food and attention from strangers can distract them from their job, which is to improve – and at times save – their human’s life. You don’t want to be the reason a service dog failed to warn their person about an impending seizure, for example.

#2 – Never spook, startle, or scare a service dog

It’s measuring day @kdvr_kwgn! #puppystagram #servicedogintraining #growingpuppy

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This includes letting your dog run-up to the service dog to say hi without asking if it’s OK first. Again, these dogs are working and have important jobs to do. Most service dogs are trained for at least 18 months to 2 years before being given to the person they are helping. Startling them may set back their training, which is an insult to the dog, its handler, and everybody who spent time training the dog for its specific tasks.

#3 – Speak up if you see somebody harassing them or their owner

Sweet service dog on BART 🐕🐕😍😍 #bart #servicedog #sanfrancisco

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If somebody is distressing a service animal or their handler, get involved. Without being aggressive, verbally disagree with the offender. Many people who bother service animals don’t understand the harm they are causing. When multiple people voice a concern, most offenders will back off.  

#4 – Understand that not every service dog wears a vest

#servicedogclass went great! We were able to talk a lot about Jasmine and her training, and got a lot of feedback 😁 We passed the test! 🎉 another practice of course lol. Our real test will be in two weeks 😎 The same week as my finals! So we’ll be finished around the same time 🎓 so I’m very excited (and lowkey anxious) about that! ——— pictured is Jasmine the shepherd mix. She is laying down on green grass, looking at the camera in a focus. She is wearing her BLD mobility harness, pink attachment cape, convertible leather leash, and lifeline martingale ——— 📸 5/31/17 • 🐕 3 years Check out our amazing Pawtners 🐾 @my_puppy_sparkles 💫 @gweneapig 🌹 @gauge_thewonder_dog 🍀 @psd.max 🍁 @sd.harley 🌻 @redtriaussie.blu ❄️ @gypsythegreat_pyreneessd 🌸 @tysontheblader 🌿 @biscuit_theservicepup 🐚 @cattledog_elliot 🍂

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According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service dogs are not required to wear vests or other forms of identification, and people are not required to produce papers to prove the animal is a service dog. While many people have their dog wear a vest to discourage petting, others prefer not to advertise their disability. And just because you can’t see their disability doesn’t mean they don’t have one. There are many “invisible illnesses” that may benefit from the use of a service dog. For all you know, that lap dog is trained to detect seizures moments before they happen, giving their people enough warning to prevent a fall or other harmful situation.

#5 – Never ask a person what their disability is

So happy because Mom came to visit Dad and me at work today!!! What a surprise! 🎉😀 #surprise #familytime #happy #smile #work #servicedog #humpday #loveyou #cutie #labrador #puppy #chocolatechunk #maggiemae

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Asking somebody what their disability is or commenting that they “don’t look disabled” is offensive and inappropriate. Any disability that requires the use of a service dog is a medical condition that has caused enough problems for the person that they need some extra help. You wouldn’t want somebody prying into your medical history. And that person you think is “faking it” may be a veteran with PTSD who needs a service dog to stop or prevent a panic attack.

#6 – Know that service dogs are allowed everywhere

Cargo hanging out at Winter Park this weekend! #CargoApproved #WhereInTheWorldIsCargo

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Service dogs are allowed, by Federal law, to go everywhere with their person, including restaurants and airplanes. The only time a service dog can be denied access if it is not house trained or if it is out of control – those are 2 situations that should never apply to a properly-trained service dog. If you’re concerned about “fake” service dogs, you are required to wait for them to break a rule before asking them to leave.

H/T: Mom Aha

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