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Service Dog & Handler Etiquette for the General Public
By: Myra Markley

Some Rules for Interacting with People with Service Dogs

  1. Speak to the person first.
  2. Do not aim distracting or rude noises at the dog .
  3. Do not call to; wave at or in any other way attempt to get the dogs attention.
  4. Do not touch the service dog without asking for, and receiving, permission.
  5. Do not offer food to the service dog.
  6. Do not ask personal questions about the handler's disability, or otherwise intrude on his or her privacy.
  7. Don't be offended if the handler does not wish to chat about the service dog.
  8. If you have children with you please don't allow them to run up to the dog or pet it.
  9. Don't tell your child the "dog may bite"; it's better to explain that the dog is working and needs to be left alone.

What if you don't like dogs or are afraid of dogs?

Place yourself away from the service dog. If you are a business person, discreetly arrange for someone else to wait on the person. You may ask the person to have the service dog lie down if it does not interfere with its work.

What if you are allergic to dogs?

Move away from the dog. Or as above: If you are a business person, discreetly arrange for someone else to wait on the person.

What if the service dog barks, growls, or otherwise forgets its manners?

Find out what happened before taking action. Was the service dog stepped on, poked, asleep and dreaming, performing its job (some alert their owners to oncoming seizures by barking once or twice)? If the dog's behavior is disruptive or destructive, you may ask the person to remove it from the premises.

What if other people complain about the dog being present?

Explain that the service dog is medically necessary and that federal law protects the right of the person to be accompanied by the service dog in public places.

What if the dog has an accident (Potty or Sick)?

In this case you can either simply move away or offer to help the handler clean the area. Normally the handler will turn around and take the dog home if this occurs. These are rare occurrences and never intentional. In fact most service dogs and handler will appear very embarrassed if an accident does occur.

Copyright © K9s @ Work 2008
Owner: M. Markley