You’ve seen assistance dogs in your neighborhood, walking down the sidewalk or in a local store. They may even be in a restaurant, but quietly waiting under the table so you don’t notice them. What do you do when you see an assistance dog? Is it OK to pet an assistance dog?

Many people ask this question. 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 them to help with physical tasks, not rolling around on the sidewalk getting a belly rub.

Here are some pointers from Canine Companions for Independence on the correct etiquette when you approach a working assistance dog:

  • Don’t touch the dog without asking permission first! This is a distraction and may prevent the dog from tending to the human partner.
  • Never feed the dog. It may be on a special diet and on a feeding schedule as well.
  • 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.
  • Do not whistle or make sounds to the dog as this again may provide a dangerous distraction.

Read more tips on how to act around 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!

One thought on “How to act around an assistance dog

  1. It is amazing…I find little children are much better at understanding that Service Dogs ARE working, and mustn’t be distracted, than Adults….It seems that adults just don’t give a darn…they do what they want to……I end up being and feeling like the Wicked Witch of the West when I ask them NOT to distract my dog…. AND why do they think it is important NOt TO TOUCH THE DOG, BUT HAVE NO DIFFICULTY IN TALKING TO HIM?????

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