What Is The Best Way To Interact With A Service Dog In Public?

It can be hard to resist interacting with a service dog – we know!  But there are important reasons to respect a service dog team’s space. What isn’t hard is learning the right way to start a conversation with a service dog handler! 

  • Service dogs are working dogs, not pets. Even when they might appear to be “off duty,” there’s a good chance that they are waiting for the next task from their handler. Think of a service dog as being “on call” when they are resting next to their handler – always ready to step in! 
  • Petting, feeding, talking to, photographing and making noises at a service dog can put the service dog team in danger. Service dogs pull wheelchairs and listen for important sounds in the environment. Distracting a service dog could mean missing when it’s the handler’s turn to be seen at the doctor, or causing a service dog to veer off a path while propelling a wheelchair. 
  • Service dogs are great conversation starters! Speak to the handler, not the service dog, and you’re sure to get a few answers to your questions. Do ask how the service dog helps the handler. Don’t ask what someone’s disability is. Keep in mind that people with disabilities can be in a rush like anyone else, and might not have time to chat.  
graphic with a title that reads: Do’s and Don’ts (in dark blue font); Service Dog Etiquette (in bold white font) Column on left listing Do’s with white checkmark in a yellow circle: (All in in dark blue font on a white background) Approach the handler first; Ask the handler before petting the dog; Ask questions; Be respectful of the dog and handler’s space Column on right listing Don’ts with white x-mark in a yellow circle: (All in in dark blue font on a white background) Distract the dog; try to get the dog’s attention; Give food or treats; Take photos without permission

Watch: How To Approach A Service Dog