Do’s and Don’ts When You See a Service Dog

September 6, 2022

Have you ever turned the corner at the grocery store only to be greeted by a dog and its owner? This was likely a service dog trained to assist its human with various tasks. When you encounter a service dog while out in public, it means that this dog is working. Many people tend to want to pet these service dogs; however, you need to understand the reasoning behind the rules of why you should not distract a service dog at any time.

Why Can't I Interact with a Service Dog?

You should know that the service dog's main priority is to keep its partner or handler safe. By distracting the dog, you may put their handler at risk. There are medical reasons such as diabetes, PTSD, seizures, or panic attacks why service dogs are being provided. People have service dogs to ensure their bodies, health, and mind function to the best of their ability in public.

Service dogs are still dogs and love attention, but their training teaches them how to ignore people. Handlers have also been trained to appreciate people who ignore their service dogs. It would be best to consider it common courtesy and appropriate etiquette to ignore them and pretend that the dog is not there.

Even when you see a service dog just laying quietly beside their handler, they are still working, monitoring. If you are distracting a service dog and its handler suddenly has a seizure, the dog would not be able to immediately alert someone for help, which could cause the handler even more injuries. You must understand that the specific task of the service dog is essential. Instead of trying to get the attention of the service dog, you should pay attention to how the service dog acts and reacts to its handler. You may help save someone's life!

Some general rules to always keep in mind regarding service dogs include:

  • No eye contact with the dog.
  • No talking to the dog.
  • No petting the dog.
  • No action or attempt to get the attention of the dog.
  • No calling the dog by name, even if you know the dog personally.
Guide dog helping blind woman in park

What Training Does a Service Dog Need?

A service dog is a trained dog that performs tasks for people with disabilities. People with a physical or mental impairment substantially limiting one or more major life activities are diagnosed with a disability. People usually consider a service dog just for a blind person, but that is not the case. Service dogs help alert deaf or hard of hearing people, assist those in a wheelchair or have walking devices, or signal the onset of a medical condition such as low blood sugar or a seizure. Even service dogs assist people with PTSD and other mental conditions.

Service dogs are not required to use a professional service dog trainer. Someone can train their own dog with online services. Service dogs start with some foundation skills: house training, social training, and focus. The AKC Canine Good Citizen program can provide an individual with this information. Some things to remember once you potentially identify a service dog in public include:

  • Do ask if the dog is needed to assist with a disability.
  • Do ask what tasks the dog is trained to do.
  • Do take notice of the size of service dogs. A handler with a physical disability will tend to have a larger, muscular dog, whereas a smaller dog may help a handler with a mental disability.
  • Do take notice by watching the dog perform tasks for their handlers.
  • Do look for specific ID tags, collars, and harnesses; they can identify the dog's role.
  • Do not automatically think a dog is a service dog simply because they are wearing a vest with a leash.
  • Don't judge a handler because they do not look disabled.
  • Don't ask for proof.
Young blind woman with guide dog in park

What Are Common Roles of Service Dogs?

Now that we have established what a service dog is and how it can be trained, it is vital to understand the different roles that service dogs may be used for. As you will see in the following section, there are many uses for these intelligent and loyal canines. Let's look at the eight types of service dogs and the roles they play so that you will have a better understanding.

  • Autism Service Dogs

    Autism service dogs are specifically trained autism service dogs who assist by helping people with autism gain independence by performing daily tasks. This type of training is rigorous, and its role is crucial. The daily effort put into Autism service dogs teaches them to alert autistic people to dangerous situations, interrupt harmful behavior, and alert them to important noises.

  • Hearing Service Dogs

    Hearing service dogs are trained to be ears for deaf or hard-of-hearing people. While you might think this is only possible for those with total hearing loss, these canine companions can help even when the owner only has minor hearing disabilities. They can often alert someone to smoke alarms, doorbells, alarm clocks, and a ringing phone.

  • Diabetic Service Dogs

    Diabetic service dogs are trained to smell, detect, and alert their handlers when changes in their blood glucose levels are dangerously high or low. Without this alert, handlers may have a potentially dangerous medical situation.

  • Seizure Response Service Dogs

    Seizure response service dogs are also known as SRDs. They are trained to assist during or immediately upon their handler having a seizure. People who are prone to having seizures consider these service dogs indispensable. They can activate an emergency response alarm, retrieve a phone or medication, fetch someone to help, and physically remove a patient from a dangerous situation.

  • Guide Service Dogs

    Guide service dogs are typically considered the most common service dog to be seen in public. They help blind and visually impaired people navigate from one place to another. These intelligent dogs can often navigate complex city areas and help ensure safe passage in busy areas.

  • Allergy Detection Service Dogs

    Allergy detection service dogs are always trying to sniff out the environment. They can detect peanuts, milk, eggs, and wheat. Knowing this can save people whose allergies are so severe that they could go into anaphylactic shock just by touching a small amount. Usually, these dogs are paired with children to keep them safe from potentially fatal allergens.

Service dog giving assistance to disabled person on wheelchair.
Cute service dog opening door for woman in wheelchair indoors
  • Mobility Assistance Service Dogs

    Mobility assistance service dogs assist people by pulling wheelchairs, opening or closing doors, bringing people objects, and operating light switches. They significantly impact their handlers' daily lives; they are generally strong enough to support a person's weight and provide balance and stability.

  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Service Dogs (PTSD)

    Post-traumatic stress disorder service dogs are crucial to people with anxiety disorders. PTSD may cause extreme paranoia and cause people to be unable to handle a difficult emotional state. A PTSD service dog can give its handler a sense of security and help them rebuild their lives by regaining self-confidence.

Why Choose Advanced Care Veterinary Hospital?

Advanced Care is more than just a primary care hospital. Our patients and clients are unique to us and are why we always treat everyone who comes to visit as another member of our family every time they walk in our doors. We do not treat every patient the same because we understand that each requires individualized Care and attention.