You walk down the street and see a service dog coming with their handler. Though it may be tempting to treat a service dog just like a family pet… here are some tips from PetMD to make sure you are using the proper etiquette.
Speaking to the Service Dog Team
That’s right, the service dog and its handler are a team. And should you want to approach a service dog team, please speak to the person first. Speaking, touching, or making rude noises to the dog may only confuse him or her.
Petting the Service Dog
It may be tempting to pet or touch the service dog, but only do so after receiving permission from the dog’s handler. Moreover, don’t be insulted if your request is denied. Releasing the dog in order to greet you may distract his or her attentiveness to the handler.
Feeding the Service Dog
Do not offer a service dog food or dog treats. Even though the dogs are trained to ignore food on the ground and not beg for treats, your offerings may serve as a distraction for the dog. Besides, you can’t be sure that the dog food or treat you are offering will not inadvertently cause the dog to become sick.
Interactions with Your Dog
If you have a dog with you, do not let him or her approach the service dog without first consulting with the handler. This can distract the service dog and, despite his or her training, may lead to an unwanted altercation between the animals.
Asking Personal Questions
Asking the handler about his or her disability is impolite and an intrusion of privacy. You should also never assume an animal is not a service dog if he or she does not wear a vest, patch, or any other item that would identify the dog as a service dog. This is not required by U.S. federal law.
Providing Help to the Service Dog Team
If you think a service dog team needs help, ask before acting. Grabbing the dog’s leash or harness from the handler without permission may cause the dog — and the handler — to become confused or upset. Also, do not take it personally if the service dog handler rejects your offer of help. It’s for a good reason.