Rule One : IGNORE
So many times people will approach a service dog team and want to say hello to the dog. Or interact with the dog by talking to them and saying things about how good they are or how cute. The problem with this is that you are getting the dogs attention and when you have the dog’s attention they are not paying attention to the handler thus putting the handler in a dangerous situation. Simply ignore the dog if you think the dog is cute or doing a good job, by all means, make that comment to the handler. We love to get compliments about our dogs they are like our children we are proud mamas and papas.
Rule Two: IGNORE
Petting a service animal is not ok ever. Even if my guide dog is laying under a table, if we are in public he is working. Never come up and just start petting them. Also saying things like, “I know I shouldn’t pet them, but he is just too darn cute.” does not make it okay, in fact, that is worse. If you absolutely can not walk by and feel the desire to pet them ask the handler first. Remembering that there is a person on the other end of the leash is key. Treat the person on the other end of the leash with the respect you would want to be treated with when you are in public.
Put yourself in my shoes for a moment; It is the end of a busy day and I need to grab a couple of things from the store, I run into the store and get stopped at least five times. People are stopping me because they are curious about my dog or they want to tell me about the lab they used to have as a kid, or even about a blind person they knew back in the day. I am glad that we can connect however I am in a rush to get home to my kids and make supper, I am exhausted and before coming into the store I have been stopped by prob 10 people before you today. It is exhausting sometimes we just want to run into the store and get some milk and leave, just like you. Could you imagine if you were stopped 10-15 times a day just for someone to make a random comment (not always nice) on the way you are traveling or about how cute your shoes are and could they touch them.
Rule Three: IGNORE
Making comments or suggesting that we are treating our dogs poorly because we are out in the winter, or rain, or just working a dog, in general, is not ok. guide dogs and other service dogs are treated better than you could ever imagine. They are spoiled rotten, given more love, attention, and affection than you could ever imagine. They love to work and love being with their handler.
If you ever come across a guide dog or service dog know that they are treated like a king or queen and that we are more than grateful for what they do for us. Living with a disability is a challenge but being able to have the assistance of a dog makes all the difference in independence and freedom for those that choose to have a service dog.
Life with a service dog can be complicated when people do not ignore the dogs. When you see me and my Guide Dog act as if I am using a white cane. You would never pet, make kissy noises, stop me to talk about my white cane so if you act as if I was using a white cane, service dog handlers will be forever grateful.
I hope that these 3 simple rules make it easy for people to remember to respect and interact appropriately with service dogs of all types.