It seems when some people see a Service Dog in public they either act as though it’s a celebrity, a cute toy to be played with or an annoyance, even if it’s just laying there. So what should you do when you see a Service Dog? What is proper Service Dog etiquette?
Smile and be polite to the Service Dog’s handler, but most of all:
Do not pet the Service Dog
Do not distract the Service Dog in any way
Please ignore the Service Dog entirely. You’re not being rude if you don’t acknowledge the Service Dog’s presence.
Service Dog etiquette says when Service Dog has a vest on or is in public with its disabled handler (or trainer), it is working, even if it appears as though it is not. Distracting a Service Dog by making noises, offering food, water, toys or petting may be dangerous to the dog’s disabled handler, especially if the dog is a medical alert dog or brace/mobility support dog. Many handlers have “invisible disabilities,” such as diabetes, hearing loss or other symptoms not readily apparent, and if a Service Dog is paying attention to someone who’s distracting her, she’s not doing her job for her handler.
If you would like to pet the Service Dog, ALWAYS ask the handler first, but don’t be offended if they refuse. Some disabled Service Dog handlers don’t like to chat about their Service Dogs. Most like to go about their day, just like you! Also, never ask personal questions about the handler’s disability or intrude on their privacy. Keep these simple Service Dog etiquette tips in mind, and you’ll have a far smoother experience when you see a Service Dog in public.