Best Practices Around Service Dogs

Service dogs are assistance dogs for people with disabilities. There are several guidelines’ people should follow when in the presence of a service dog to allow for the safety of the dog and its handler. Service dogs play a vital role in the health and well-being of a person with a disability.When they are on the job, it’s essential that you don’t interrupt or distract them – the handler’s life depends on it!
It’s also important to know that under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities are allowed to be accompanied by their guide or service dog in all places the public is

● Please don't touch, talk, feed or otherwise distract the dog while it is working. You should allow the dog to concentrate and perform for the safety of its handler.
● Please don’t allow your children to approach.
● Don't treat the dog as a pet; give him the respect of a working dog.
● Speak to the handler, not the dog. Some handlers will allow petting but be sure to ask before doing so. If allowed, don't pat the dog on the head; stroke the dog on the shoulder area.
● If the handler says no when you ask to pet the dog, don’t be offended. Remember, a service dog is as vital to a disabled person as a wheelchair or cane. You wouldn't ask to pet their wheelchair or get mad if they wouldn't let you pet their cane.
● You should not give the dog commands; allow the handler to do so.
● Don’t give food to a service dog. Not only is it distracting (even service dogs love food), but many service dogs are on a strict diet and feeding schedule. Even worse, some dogs have allergies. If a service dog becomes sick, then they cannot perform their job properly.
● Let the owner know if the service dog approaches you. Service dogs are trained to perform their respective tasks without distractions. If a service dog approaches you with its owner and sniffs or  paws at you, then let the owner know. This may be unwanted behavior that needs correcting. Even though the dog is demanding your attention, ignore it and talk directly to the owner instead.
● Service dog teams have the right of way.
● Don't try to take control in situations unfamiliar to the dog or handler, but please assist the handler upon their request.
● Don’t ignore a service dog if it approaches you without their owner. A dog in a harness without its owner nearby is unusual. If a service dog nudges you with its nose or barks at you with no owner in sight, it’s a clue that the dog is seeking help. In this instance, follow the dog. It will lead you to its owner. Identify the situation, and if necessary, call 911 immediately.

Another thing to consider: No one likes to have people stare, point, or hear personal comments from strangers. Health is a private matter. In addition, making comments to others about the handler and their dog may be harmful for the handler to hear. Please be aware of your actions and the effects these actions may have on others. The best way to help the handler and the service dog is to respect their space and right to privacy.