International Assistance Dog Week is August 6-12
So often, when we see assistance dogs with their partners, we’re immediately drawn to admire them and even pet them. You meet them in the store, at the park or around the neighborhood. It’s hard to resist not giving an ear scratch to these adorable, well-behaved dogs. But remember, they are working. Their partner with a disability needs their help with physical tasks, not distracted by a friendly stranger saying hi.
However well intentioned, it’s important be aware of the rules and etiquette surrounding working dogs. People with working dogs generally appreciate engaging with those drawn to their canine partners. Just remember to observe the tips below while enjoying your interaction with the team.
- Speak to the person, not the assistance dog. Most handlers do not mind talking about assistance dogs and their dog specifically if they have the time. In fact, they often enjoy it!
- Don’t touch the dog without asking permission first. This is a distraction and may prevent the dog from tending to the human partner. Be sensitive to the fact the dog is working and may be in the middle of a command or direction from its human partner.
- Many assistance dog users try to structure their dog’s interactions in specific ways, for example asking the dog to sit and “shake”. Wait for the individual to give you instructions.
- Please don’t feed the dog. It may be on a special diet. Food is the ultimate distraction to the working dog and can jeopardize the working assistance dog team.
- Do not whistle or make sounds to the dog as this again may provide a dangerous distraction.
- Never make assumptions about the individual’s intelligence, feelings or capabilities. Offers of help are generally appreciated, but ask first. Usually, the human/dog team can get the task done by themselves.
Read more tips on how to engage with people with disabilities and assistance dogs at cci.org/etiquette. Learning the best way to approach a working assistance dog team will make you and the team more comfortable when out in public.