September is National Service Dog Month! Have you seen a service dog team lately? Were you unsure of the proper etiquette? Service dogs provide valuable, sometimes life-saving assistance to their handlers, so “paws” before you’re tempted to interrupt them! Brush up with these helpful tips and reminders from PetMD and Canine Companions for Independence.
1. Always speak to the owner first.
Address the owner first, rather than the dog. Treat him or her with respect and sensitivity, and avoid asking personal questions about the nature of his or her disability.
2. Do not pet or touch the service dog without permission.
Refrain from whistling or making other sounds too. Keep in mind that the dog is working on behalf of the handler; confusing or distracting the dog may prevent it from carrying out commands or devoting its full attention to its handler and surroundings.
3. Don’t be insulted if you cannot pet the service dog.
The handler may choose not to “release” the dog from work mode so that you can pet it. Be sensitive to the fact that the dog is performing critical tasks, and it may not be a good time.
4. Do not feed the service dog.
The service dog is performing an honorable task, but don’t be tempted to intervene with a treat or snack as a reward. Food can distract even the most well-trained dog. In addition, the service dog may be on a particular diet or eating schedule.
5. Keep your dog away from the service dog.
To be on the safe side, keep your dog away from the service dog so that it can work without extra distractions. If you must approach them for some reason, speak to the handler first to make sure it’s okay.
6. Ask before offering help or assistance.
The service dog team is quite capable, but if you think they need help, be sure to ask first. Don’t attempt to grab the leash or harness away from the handler. If the owner rejects an offer of help, respect his or her wishes.