As a service dog handler, I encountered several individuals that do not know how to interact with service dogs. Being a college student attending a major university, I see it more now than ever. So, here are a few tips on how to interact with a service dog team.
1. Do not talk to the dog
Making kissing noises, telling the dog it's so pretty, or calling the dog to you, can distract the service dog from their essential job.
2. Do not pat the dog
This causes the dog to be surprised and may cause the service dog to be on alert.
3. Do not ask the handler personal questions
Asking personal questions can be offensive and make the handler feel awkward. The handler could be experiencing a medical problem such as an episode or a flashback. Think about questions you would want to be asked if you were a service dog handler.
4. Avoid judging the handler
Unfortunately, chronic illnesses and mental issues affect all ages, race, gender, ethnicity, and more. So avoid saying, "you are too young to be sick." I have heard this comment so many times in my two years of having a service dog. I often feel I have to defend myself, which makes me feel defeated.
5. Talk to the handler
You can tell the handler how well behaved their dog is and that their dog is beautiful. These interactions make me so happy! I love that people admire my dog and think he is well behaved. I have put a lot of time and energy into ensuring that my service dog behaves the way he does.
6. You can ask to pet the service dog
My advice is to read the room. Do not approach someone who looks like they are having a medical episode. It does not hurt to ask to pet the dog or if you can pat them. A lot of handlers prefer someone to ask to pet their service dog rather than someone randomly petting their dog. Some handlers are more open to people petting their dogs compared to others.
7. Admire the service dog from a distance
You can admire the dog's hard work from a distance. I am thankful that people love my service dog, but I want to feel normal. Sometimes, the number of people that want to interact with him can be overwhelming. Thank you to all the people that admire service dogs from a distance!