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I Don't Bother You at Your Job: What to Do When You See a Service Dog

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

It never fails. You are trying to work on public access work and someone comes running up to you "asking" can they pet your puppy, while already leaning in to do just that. They can see the vest he's wearing, and the "I'm working" patches. Yet we still feel it is our right to interact with a dog simply because they are in the same store as us. More often than not, when you politely ask them NOT to pet your service dog, they get very upset with you to boot! So general public, here are some tips for seeing working dogs when you're out and about.

I wish instead of "I'm Working, Please Don't Pet Me", a working dog's vest said "Ignore My Existence Please". It's more accurate. Because it's not simply enough to not pet a service dog, when you've still called out to them or interrupted their owner to ask about them. This is still distracting to them and can be frustrating for the handler. When a service dog is in training, distractions are a big part of their training. They need to learn to tune everything but their handler out. However we control those distractions through training.

If you see a service dog, the best thing to do is literally nothing. Do not ask to pet them, do not stop the owner to talk to their dog, pretend the dog is not there. Another aspect of this is while a handler may be used to their dog getting all the attention, they may not like being ignored for their dog. If however you ever find a service dog with a vest and no handler attached they may be seeking help for their owner and you should follow them. Many people don't know that but it is true, they can be trained to seek help for their incapacitated owner. Also to note, even if you are pretty sure a dog being presented as a service dog is a fake, it is not your place to call them out. There is no registry for service dogs, and only certain questions can even be asked to a handler.

So as a recap; seeing a service dog=do nothing. Not just don't pet them, don't talk to them or otherwise distract them in any way. Good luck out there!

For the Dogs,

Christina, DTFC

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