Service Dog Etiquette
Would you want to be bothered while you’re working?
Most people know that it isn’t ok to pet a guide dog while they are working yet they don’t understand why. So please let us explain.
Picture this situation: you are sitting at your desk trying to concentrate on what you are doing. Suddenly someone comes up behind you and starts scattering your paperwork and starts asking you all sorts of questions. This is what it is like for a guide dog that is working who suddenly gets interrupted.
A guide dogs job is to look forward and keep their visually impaired person away from any apparent danger. If the dog is distracted there is a possibility that danger is lurking without notice because the dog isn’t allowed to concentrate. The realization is that dogs are irresistible yet out of respect for the “working dog” please do not pet while working.
Often, if a visually impaired person needs assistance, he/she will ask for it. If it appears the person may need help, ask first. If help is requested, ask if directions or orientation assistance is needed:
Sometimes, the person simply needs to know where they are and what direction they are facing. A simple “You are in front of XYZ department store on Wilson Street, facing the front door.” may be all that is needed.
If they need guidance (ie:sighted guide), approach the person on their right side, as the Guide Dog will typically be on the person’s left side. Never touch or grab the person, just get in front of them with your left elbow just in front of their right arm, and tell them you will act as a sighted guide if they wish and your elbow is just in front of them. If they wish assistance, they will lightly hold your elbow and then you may guide them to where they wish to go.
An alternate method is that the Guide Dog user will instruct their dog to “follow” you. Just walk ahead of the person at a normal speed, informing them when they are approaching turns, doorways, stairs, and drop-offs. At street crossings, walk with them across the street and onto the opposite curb.
While a dog will always be willing to eat, the dog may have allergies to some treats or may be trying to lose a little weight. Never offer food to a Guide Dog. Also, the dog should always look to their human partner for treats and food, never strangers.