Despite all of the education out there about how not to pet service dogs, not everyone respects the rules. One mom in a crowded mall caused a viral sensation with her out of line behavior when permission was not granted for her child to pet a service dog.
While this sadly may happen often across America, because it was caught on video, many people weighed in on the issue. Here is the video. Make sure to read some of the responses that I’ve posted after the video. It may help people to see why it’s best to never disturb a service dog.
Responses To the Video That Went Viral
A person who has autism and also has a service dog said, “I’d rather people ask than just lean in and try to grab her, which happens every day… but I don’t always have the energy to explain what she’s doing or why she can’t be petted. I’m autistic and sometimes just can’t speak very efficiently at all so I can’t explain even if I wanted to. I might shake my head no, or indicate in some other short way not to pet her or talk to her, and I just want to have that respected. People also often take pictures of us without asking and that makes me really super uncomfortable, I don’t want people to do that at all.”
Just Don’t Do It
Some service dog handlers are more tolerant of people asking to pet their dogs. But still, it would be much better if everyone just left service dogs and their handlers alone. There are so many reasons to leave service dogs and their people alone. But it’s really not anyone’s right to have to know why.
One tolerant handler explained, “I guess I just don’t want people to assume I am able to divert my attention to interact with them how they want me to, and that if someone has a service dog in the first place it means they’re disabled and probably having a hard time already. Using judgment about whether it’s appropriate to ask to pet helps (does the dog already have a vest on that says not to pet? Is it really loud and busy and chaotic of an atmosphere? Does the service dog handler look uncomfortable or distracted?) I have let people pet her, but in really specific situations where I can focus on making sure I keep her attention and I know I won’t need her to work for me at that moment.”
Sadly, Disrespectful Behaviors of Service Dogs and Their Handlers Are Very Common
A service dog handler shared, “Unfortunately I feel like people don’t consider me at all when they ask to interact with my service dog the majority of the time. Usually, people just lean in and talk to her or try to pet her without even acknowledging me… They also often just assume I’m rude instead of something out of my control (like I can’t hear them, which happens a lot in overstimulating environments). I am concerned about people continuing to do these things because it’s really common.”
Service Dogs Are Working. Do Not Disturb Them Or Their Human.
Another person who watched the video responded by saying, “My dog Clover is doing very well in training though, she has a Facebook page I started for her recently so people could see her and ask me questions about her and stuff there if they’re curious. I like talking about my service dog, just not necessarily when I’m trying to go grocery shopping! She deals well with strangers approaching but she is a very friendly and outgoing dog that enjoys people so attention from other people can be a big distraction for her and it’s something we have to work on all the time. I don’t think people consider that when they get upset about not being allowed to pet her.”
Don’t ask to pet a service dog and do not disturb a service dog. Service dogs are highly trained to do their job. When people become a distraction to a service dog it could sometimes mean life or death for the handler. But more often than not it is an unhealthy disturbance to the duo. Just don’t do it. Look and admire (but don’t stare) and go about your own business.