People have service dogs for all kinds of reasons. Service dog's help people with a disability, either mental or physical, by preforming trained tasks or work. Since I have gotten my service dog in training she has greatly benefited me by helping me with my anxiety, depression, and dissociative identity disorder. One thing I'm not a fan of is how some people respond to or act around my service dog. Here are 10 things you should not do around a service dog:
1. Pet a service dog without asking
Most of us were taught as children that we should never pet any dog without asking and this still rings true for any dog; however, petting a service dog can not only be uncomfortable for the handler but also dangerous. Distracting a service dog could mean they miss certain signs in their handler or miss a command which, in some cases, can put a handler's life in danger.
2. Talk to the dog rather than the handler
Hey, I'm up here! When a stranger or acquaintance comes up to me and, without saying a word to me, starts talking to my service dog in a baby voice it gets pretty awkward and it's also pretty degrading. My service dog is here to help me be more functional and independent, she is classified as medical equipment and most handlers would prefer if you made no noises directed at a service dog.
3. Ask what our service dog is for
Service Dogs are used by people with both visible and invisible conditions and therefore it may not always be obvious why someone has a service dog. This does not, however, give you the right to ask someone why they have a service dog. That is the equivalent of asking someone about their private medical information. Would you go up to a complete stranger and ask them about personal medical information? I hope not. The presence of a service dog shouldn't change that. For me personally, people asking about my disability when I am not expecting it triggers my anxiety.
4. Asking to pet when it's clearly not a good time
If you notice a patch or leash wrap that says "do not pet," "do not approach," or something along those lines it's best to just leave the dog and handler be; they may prefer not to interact with strangers or their disability may make it difficult for them. Also, if someone seems in a hurry don't stop them by asking if you may pet their service dog; we have places to be just like everyone else. Lastly, if we are talking to someone else, most service dog handlers aren't thrilled to be interrupted just so you can ask to pet our dog.
5. Ask how to get your dog registered as a service dog
There is no official registry for service dogs in The United States. There are online registries that hold no legal value and that anyone can sign their dog up for. Registering a dog on one of these sites does not make it a service dog. Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. If you don't have a disability or if your dog is not trained to mitigate your disability then it is not a service dog.