Etiquette When Approaching Service Dog
Service Dog Etiquette
A service dog out with his person is a dog at work. These animals are impressive, and it’s natural to want to give them attention. Dog lovers especially are drawn to them, and want to pet and praise them.
But don’t. Even if the dog doesn’t look like he’s working, he is doing his job. And it takes all of his concentration. That’s why the #1 rule of service dog etiquette is simply ignore him and let him get on with his job.
The dog is his person’s lifeline. He is the reason the owner with the disability, either visible or invisible, is able to get out and about, navigating everyday life. His job is to perform tasks that keep his person safe.
When you distract him in any way, he can’t respond quickly and appropriately to protect his owner. Never do anything that interferes with the dog’s concentration.
In fact, the dog is legally considered medical equipment. In many states, it is a crime to distract or harass a service dog at work.
Even if the owner and service dog are eating out, they are focused on their own activity. It’s true that their teamwork is heartwarming and inspiring. But they aren’t there to entertain you or listen to you “ooh and ahh” over the dog, or answer your questions.
The owner is busy living her life. Your attention is most likely well meant, but it is intrusive. And if it disrupts the dog’s focus, it can be very dangerous.
Here is a roundup of dos and don’ts that are part of proper service dog etiquette.
Ignore the dog and his owner as they go about their day. Don’t attempt to interact with them.
Don’t Do This
- Don’t distract him by making noises, like whistling or talking baby talk.
- Don’t offer him food or water.
- Don’t give him a toy to play with.
- Don’t pet him.
- Don’t ask the owner if you can pet him.
- Don’t yell at him.
- Don’t clap your hands or tap your leg in a “come here” motion.
- Don’t allow your children to go close to the dog.
- Don’t bark at him.
- Don’t touch him in any way.
- Don’t touch his equipment.
Service Dog Information
You can find out more about service dogs on the Service Dog Info page at USA Service Dog Registration. It has links to individual state laws that govern service dog use. It also explains where the dogs are allowed and the types of conditions that they help with.
For more information about emotional support dogs, which serve a different purpose than service dogs, go to the Emotional Support Animal Info page.
USA Service Dog Registration offers easy and free online registration for service dogs and emotional support dogs. For both types, the registration process is just 3 steps. The website also has a store with leashes, ID cards and digital certificates, tags, collars and vests.