So now we can’t even say hi to a service dog?

Dear Gentle Butch,

I know we aren’t supposed to touch service dogs, but we can look at them, right? What if the dog approaches us first?

I was walking toward a woman with a service dog on the sidewalk, and her dog was so incredibly cute! It was a beautiful shiny black Lab bursting with Lab cuteness, with floppy soft ears and a big doggie smile.

I love dogs. I didn’t say anything at all, but as we got closer I did look at the dog, smile, and give it a little wave. He wagged his tail.

As I passed, the dog’s tail got faster, it raised its head, and sniffed at my knuckles. I paused and turned my hand around for him, and he gave it a little kiss as he went by.

I would never have touched a service dog that hadn’t sniffed me, and I didn’t even really touch him as it was!

The woman yanked the dog closer to her and snarled at me: “Interfering with a service dog is against the law!” And kept wheeling down the street away from me.

I didn’t even make her and the dog slow down on their way.

I know I shouldn’t touch them, and I didn’t! But I feel really bad. She was just so angry! I don’t think I did anything wrong, and I don’t see why she had to be so mean about it. 

What do you think?

— I Love Dogs


Dear ILD,

Listen. I get it. I really do. I am also a dog lover, and human beings evolved next to dogs. Our species are inextricably linked, and when you’re a dog person it’s nearly impossible to reject a doggie overture.

Studies show that dogs in the workplace lower stress levels, and they make obnoxious teens and stoic butches alike coo and make baby talk and kissy noises. Their fur begs to be pet and their noses beg to be kissed. And dogs — especially Labs — love attention from people.

That’s where things get sticky with service animals.

My service dog loves people — especially children. And other dogs. If I allowed it, he would spend his days as a social butterfly distributing kisses and soliciting treats rather than supporting me.

And that’s the thing: service dogs have a job to do. And when they are distracted or when they are hoping for and expecting attention from others, that’s when things can get dangerous for their disabled handlers.

You say that the dog initiated with you, and that you didn’t slow them down or touch him.

But you actually initiated with the dog. Making eye contact and waving is very appealing to friendly dogs.

And if you were close enough for the dog to sniff the back of your hand? You were too close.

Service dogs need space to work. Walking close enough to one for him to sniff you, even if you hadn’t gotten his attention first, is very distracting.

Think about it: if every person (or even every tenth person) who walked past that woman and her dog waved and interacted with her dog, the dog would stop paying attention to his handler and start looking around and maybe even lunging toward people for attention, play, etc.

My dog once lunged when I was in my wheelchair, and I ended up in a heap on the sidewalk.

It’s dangerous for the dog, too — a man once made kissy noises at my dog, he looked at that damn kissy man instead of where he was going, and I rolled over his toes.

So: next time you see someone with a service dog, even if you’re on a crowded sidewalk or in a narrow hallway, avoid eye contact with the dog and give them a wide berth by either walking out toward the curb or even stepping aside for them to pass.

I think many people make the mistaken assumption that service dogs are so perfectly trained that they are basically robots; if the dog shouldn’t sniff, he shouldn’t sniff no matter what.

But dogs are dogs, and no training is perfect, and when people walk by offering attention over and over, it erodes the training the dog has gone through.

I know it hurts. Like, I mean, if you love dogs it can sometimes actually feel like a physical pain to refrain from at least even saying hi.

But don’t do it. Just don’t. It is dangerous for the handler and for the dog.

Now: you are wondering why the handler was so angry.

I confess, although my name is Gentle, that reading this letter angered me, too — even as I understood how easy it is to make a mistake like you did.

See, disabled people, like any marginalized group, deal with microaggressions every day — be it people TALKING VERY SLOWLY IN THEIR SPECIAL VOICE, grabbing our wheelchairs, asking why we ‘need those sticks,’ or stealing the parking spaces set aside for us so that we have enough room to enter and exit with our equipment.

So I am nearly certain that you were not the first person who interfered with her dog that week, and probably not even the first to interfere that day — and after a certain point, all of us just snap.

The type of behavior you describe is really, really distracting to the dog and it’s incredibly enraging to a handler, no matter how well-meaning you were. That’s why the handler got so angry. It’s as simple as that.

I know it stings to have a stranger rage at you in public, and I also know that not a lot of people get good information on how to deal with service dogs in public except for ‘don’t touch.’

But now you know for next time, and hopefully by writing in, other people now know, too.

59 thoughts on “So now we can’t even say hi to a service dog?

  1. A service dog is WORKING. They may have several jobs to do. Mobility assistance, blood sugar monitoring, seizure monitoring, PTSD monitoring and assistance, guide, and more. When passersby distract a service dog who is working, the dog may well make mistakes or miss cues due to being distracted that may have HUGE safety and medical ramifications for the person they are serving and also perhaps for the dog itself. It IS hard, but just don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A thing that was not addressed, but can be confusing: If the service dog approaches you, you are supposed to follow them so they can lead you to their distressed handler. The exact when’s, where’s, how’s, and why’s of interacting with service dogs can be confusing to those who don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If a Service Dog approaches you without it’s handler, by all means, do whatever you can to assist. If a SD “reaches out” for your attention while with a handler, LOOK at the HANDLER for cues to whether or not you should engage. It’s pretty simple…just exactly like you would with a lone toddler or a toddler with an adult.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Good answer Tiffany!
        Same as people asking you for rides in your wheelchair, or pushing you in it without your consent!
        A service dog is an accommodation for your ADA level disability,…not a conversation starter!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Andrew, This is a myth. Service dogs will stay with their owner/handler. They will not wander off and look for help. They might bark, to call attention. But they are supposed to stay with their handler.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It is not a myth that service dogs will look for help. “Get help” is a command that at least a dozen handlers I know have trained their dogs to follow. They all have disabilities that can mean they fall easily or collapse or are impaired in a way that means they need assistance from another person.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Its actually a task called go find help, some service dog handlers do actually use this task. It is perfectly allowed and many many people use this, so if service dog approaches you without the handler follow the dog and it will lead you to the handler.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Not necessarily. I don’t agree with a SD leaving their handler to get help. There are just too many issues that could harm the SD to risk that. That said however …

        It has been pointed out on a variety of SD ethics sites that this is a valid Task, that if a handler is in distress & needs help, the SD may be sent or be tasked with finding help. Not only is it a valid task, SD Organizations TRAIN this task depending on the handler’s need.

        I agree with you, it is better for the SD to stay with the handler & call attention to the situation by barking, or/and be trained to trigger an aid summing device, whether the aid is a family member or EMT’s or a specific organization. At best the “get help” task should be limited to someone the dog knows. But this is my opinion only.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That is only true with some types of medical service dogs, and then there are others that are trained to get help if they owner is sick and non responsive.
        *Barking* isn’t something they are supposed to do, they get 1 bark, and that is it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “*Barking* isn’t something they are supposed to do, they get 1 bark, and that is it.”

        True. In the normal coarse of working your SD. SD is allowed one bark for an Alert. Any more barks and they could be considered disruptive and the handler asked to remove their disruptive SD.

        Any bets on whether that would actually happen, when the irritated employee/manager/owner storms over & finds a handler in distress, needing help or unconscious? When the SD stops barking because someone responded to their alarm?

        Getting help is a valid Task. People & Organizations train for it.

        If task is getting anyone (VS a specific person), then the handler is risking their SD, to: Injury, Theft, Confiscation by Animal Control, none of which gets the handler help. I would HOPE that doesn’t happen, but it definitely could. Would hope that if animal control or other authorizes (police) are called about an animal at large, they’d see the SD gear & appropriately respond. Would I bet my SD on it? Not a chance. But that is my choice.


      • Not necessarily. I’m training my d.a.d. to “get help”. I suffer from type 2 diabetes and vestibular migraines. My SD alerts me to highs (most often the case) and lows (these rarely happen with the meds I take), because I am dizzy literally all of the time. My SD is learning to “get help” in the event of a fall or if something happens and I become immobile. I would hope that if she ever had to perform this task in an actual (not simulated) situation, the person (s) she approaches will follow her back to me and call for help.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Good answer. My SD is clipped into my belt. Most dogs are tethered to their handlers somehow for hands free operation. If the dog got away, it was most likely gear failure.


      • “They will wonder off to find some one because there owner is hurt or in trouble.”

        As a SD handler. No. A well trained SD should not move away from handler unless specifically trained to do so as a task. A well trained SD is trained to stay with a handler even when off leash; no matter the handler’s condition. Again, except as a specific task to go get a specific person in response to specific symptoms that are trained.

        I have already stated this in prior comments. A SD should not be leaving a handler’s side to get help, even as a trained task, in a PA situation, if the result is to find any stranger. Better for the SD to stay with the handler and make a fuss, maybe move away from the handler to vary the sound location, but always keep the handler in sight. Someone will investigate a dog making a fuss. If for no other reason initially to complain.

        In my opinion there are too many dangers for a SD alone without the handler. When there have been known, reported, attempts to steal SD directly from handlers … what are the odds someone wouldn’t do the same to a SD.

        Note. Not saying not a valid trained task. Just saying while considering it handler needs to take into consideration the potential dangers. As well as the contentious nature of the task itself, in that a SD alone is not considered “under the control of the handler”, by some in the SD community. Latter doesn’t even come into play if the SD isn’t away from your side, for any extended period (excluding “clearing rooms” as specifically stated in the ADA examples).

        My 2 cents.


      • Um… sorry. My dog is specifically trained to do this at my work place. Not a common sd task, but not a myth either.


    • Not confusing at all. If an UNATTENDED SERVICE DOG approaches you, follow him. The fact that he is unattended is a signal that his person is probably in trouble.


  3. No. I service dog should never leave their handler. You risk your service dog if that happens. So many things can go wrong. That is horrible information and misleading. The dog should stay with you and alert by your side, never leaving your side.

    You risk the dog being mistakenly taken away, injured, you laying waiting for help.. etc.

    The article that was publish was incredibly incorrect. 99% of handlers would NEVER recommend this, ever.


  4. After reading this posting on Facebook and as a member of the disability community myself, I have to chime in here.
    First of all, the woman snarling at someone isn’t gonna earn them goodie points.
    Secondly, there is NO explanation/instruction on the LAW that you *cannot* TOUCH the dog.
    Thirdly- Snarling at people and yelling at them isn’t going to make the non-disabled community more friendly towards them. Its going to alienate them. Supposed that she’s looking for a job and she unknowingly meets someone (just like that woman), and snarls at her…its GOODBYE to a potential job network connection or something along those lines.
    Lastly, before you lambast me, I have a disability myself so I do understand that these dogs are working dogs but the NON-DISABLED POPULATION at large does NOT know that these dogs cannot be touched. If those that have working dogs want people NOT to touch the dogs, then its THEIR job to EDUCATE people and work with disabiity organizations on PR to educate those that do NOT know the law.
    Its my job to educate people with respect to my disability because I understand that ALOT of people do NOT know ADA or what it is or what they need to do. Getting mad at people, yelling at them, snarling at them isn’t going to help me in the LONG run. Its only going to fuel their perception that disabled people are angry people and are not easy to work with. Its going to make it harder for them in the long run when dealing with non-disabled people. Remember, educating them is always going to be our job to do because schools/parents/etc aren’t obligated to TEACH people about these laws. If you want people to understand the law, you have to teach them instead. People aren’t going to go OUT of their way to educate themselves on ALLLLL the laws in their state. Simply, there are too many laws on the books.
    Being friendly and explaining the situation in a nicer way will go a long way with others in the non-disability circles. Being a jerk is only going to reinforce the image that people with disabilities are not friendly and are angry people instead. This is NOT what I want as a member of the disabled community because its HARD enough as it is to build bridges to the non-disabled community when it comes to jobs, equality, friendships, etc.
    That’s my .02 for the day.


    • It’s extremely hard to be nice every minute of every day.
      I’ve had kids run up to my dog and hit her, I’ve ssid, please don’t do that it’s not nice and she’s working. Kid comes back again trying to hit her in the face now, this is when I gently move the child’s hands off my dog and move her behind me saying that is not nice please stop. The mum started screaming at me triggering a panic attack. I have 5% vision in one eye.
      I’ve had adults tell me it’s my fault for bringing a dog to the shops that it’s their rite to do whatever they want to me dog.
      People try steal her.
      People tell me she’s fake because when they touched her she licked them.
      I get 10 comments at least daily about my dog. If someone says my dog is cute or beautiful I thank them and say her hair is brushed more than mine.
      I’m not a bad person and yes sometimes I have to snap at people to get them to understand they’re upsetting me and to leave me alone.
      I’ve been stalked for my dog and backed into a corner by a man who kept touching my dog and I had a massive panic attack and burst into tears just begging to be left alone. I was trying to go to the chemist like a normal person.
      Everyday I leave my house I am treated like a circus freak because of my labrador that guides me safely from point a to b.
      I don’t mind a friendly chat if I’m waiting in line or something similar. I’ve educated countless numbers of people on service dog etiquette.
      I am a small timid person who is legally blind and has mental disorders. If strangers touch me my brain tells me to run, if my dog is not making contact with me for a minute my brain reminds me of the man that tried to steal her while I paid for my weekly groceries. If she yelps or jolts, I’m reminded of ,y first guide dog getting punched by a grown man, smashed in the ribs by a trolley and retired for severe anxiety and aversion to working because of all the bad things that happened to her by the general public’s hand.
      So if a handler snaps at you, put yourself in their shoes for a min and think about the day they might’ve had.
      We aren’t angry all the time but how can you expect us to be sweet and polite all the time? Are you? Don’t you get angry? It’s human nature. And we’re all humans. Some just work differently .

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s not any disabled individuals job to educate there’s those of us who do it because we enjoy it and we want to help others but it’s not Our job to do so. People are allowed to get frustrated. Yes l you can catch more flies with honey I can also catch just as many with a hollowed out carcass . And to be quite honest it doesn’t matter if it’s a service dog or not if it’s not your dog you have no business touching it or interacting with it without the handler/owners permission. Just because you’re disabled doesn’t mean you get to have an opinion on how those of us who utilize our disabilities with service dogs should react when people harass us constantly .


    • So being disabled is now a job? Wish I could be paid for it rather than have multiple people a day pry into my personal business and spend at least a 30 minutes a day (when I go out) getting stopped being asked rude questions by strangers and people touch my service dog that has at least four patches on him that say don’t touch, don’t talk, don’t stare. Sorry but being disabled is not a job, it’s not people’s job to educate people unless they want to. Jobs you have a option for, being disabled is not a option.
      Would you expect a mother to educate everyone who as questions about kids?
      Would you expect someone who divorced to explain what it’s like being divorced?
      Would you expect a dog trainer answer anybody who just walks up to them and want to know the answer to all their questions?
      See those the difference is the situations listed above are choices, you don’t have the option to be disabled.
      As a service dog handler I can understand why they snapped it was probably at least the 5th person to distract their dog that day and that can become very frustrating and can be especially annoying if your dog is like mine and alerts you if your going to pass out because that threatens my life and could cause me more medical problems or if serious enough death.


      • I see people with service animals as…people. I don’t expect them to explain to anyone about their disability or why they have a service animal (other than the legal questions to allow their animals in public spaces). Just as I wouldn’t stare at a wheelchair or any other piece of medical equipment, nor ask to touch it, I won’t make a fuss over a service animal. Staring, touching, commenting on the equipment equates, to me, as NOT acknowledging the user as a human being, equal to myself. Ok, admittedly, I did once comment on an electric scooter than looked like a hard-tail Harley–but I spoke to the driver, not the bike.


    • Actually depending on where you live the ADA has that it is a crime the interfier with a service dog, which means distracting them to and touching the dog is distracting them so it is illegal.
      Goodie points don’t matter because that person is probably at least the fifth person to distract the dog that day, and as a service dog handler I can understand how annoying that is especially if your dog is like mine that alerts to me before passing out due to my heart, so if someone were to distract my service dog it could result in injury or in a extreme case death.
      So being disabled is a job now? If only I could be payed for it. You have a option for job being disabled is not a option, I have no obligation to educated a complete stranger about my disabilities. I already spend at least 30 minutes a day responding to rude people to want to know my personal medical information and what’s wrong with me.
      It’s not my job to tell every complete stranger what’s wrong with me and all the things they should of shouldn’t do, this is my life and who I am it’s not a option like a job is.
      Also them not know, my dogs vest that is clearly marked and has at least 4 do not touch patches and a bunch that say do not distract, don’t talk, don’t touch, don’t stare should be enough for people but nooo every five minutes I have to tell someone to stop distracting my medical equipment.
      So yeah she’s going to be pissed if someone is putting their life at risk.


    • It’s nobody’s responsibility to teach someone else how to act- it is there responsibility to figure it out themselves. It’s utterly ridiculous ableist bs to place such a huge burden on the already disadvantaged disabled person who deals with so much already- able bodied people need to EDUCATE THEMSELVES. I don’t take my SD with me when I should often times because people are self centered and ignorant, and I’m forced into social interactions with strangers that I DO NOT want, because they can’t mind their own business and leave me & my dog the hell alone. And unless I’m getting paid for it, it’s damn sure not my job to teach them just so I can go to the store in peace.
      Stop placing the onus on disabled people to be patient with the CONSTANT “well meaning” abled public who treat us like entertainment instead of humans, expecting we owe them our attention or stories, and start placing it on the oppressing majority. 😠


    • Sorry Ryan, this only goes so far. I, also a disabled person, absolutely reject the notion that I’m not allowed my humanity, that I’m not allowed to have a bad day, not allowed to reach a breaking point when one more person just treats me like I’m there, or my dog is there, for their amusement, or that I’m supposed to be anyone’s educational brochure or zoo exhibit. No. I will educate when I have the time, energy, and inclination. I will assert my human right to go about my day. I will be assertive if I must, because no matter how nicely you say no, you’re a mean horrible ingrate when you don’t accept unwanted help or attention. And I will absolutely claim my right to be human. The expectation of the always happy, always grateful, always willing to educate PWD is just a s harmful as is the PWD with a chip on his shoulder. Which, BTW, we all apparently have if we dare to be anything but happy, grateful, and pleasant at all times.


    • We as public need to learn to ask permission to touch, interact, etc…dog may still be in training also which is perhaps why he so easily engaged with the person walking by. Same is true with babies, toddlers…ask the parent 1st if you can interact. Talk to the owner/ parent of any pet or child whether disability is present or not


    • This is the most entitled nonsense I’ve heard in a while. Goodie points? Seriously? When someone just wants to live their life safely and undisturbed by ignorant, self-important jerks? Educate yourself. It’s not hard. People are not required to be constantly polite when your ignorance is potentially harmful to them. Get over yourself.

      And by the way, I say this as a non-disabled person. I just pay attention to the world around me and don’t expect everyone to serve me instead of me making a real effort.


    • As a guide dog user I was trained to give a leash correction and firmly say No! Leave it! If my dog gives in to distraction. These dogs want so badly to please their handler so anyone distracting them not only contributes to the undoing of months of training, they risk causing the dog and handler to be injured. Additionally they cause stress to the dog who has been firmly corrected and the handler. The handler is also fought to keep moving away from the distraction. The handler may not always have the time to stop and explain service dog etiquette to everyone they encounter in this way.


  5. This was a great response to a question I feel like many non disabled people don’t often understand. While I always try to be polite to the general public when they try to interact with my service dog sometimes you can only take so much before that last straw breaks your back and you lose your temper for something that most people would perceive as being very small or not a big deal. But when this stuff is happening to us multiple times a day putting our lives at risk yes sometimes we do get frustrated and we lash out .


  6. Very good explanation of this topic. Will share.
    I am a former veterinarian, and I know the tremendous amout of time and effort that goes into training a service dog.


  7. Reading things like “if I allowed it, my dog would spend his (dog) days as a social butterfly distributing kisses”…and “when they are HOPING for…affection from others.”
    How this reads to me – is that the authors dog does not want to be in service. Rather, her dog wants to be just that – a dog. It wants attention, and to socialize with other humans and dogs. So, this dog is not allowed to follow its own natural instincts to be a dog. That is heartbreaking and I am trying to understand how the author can type those words and not feel horrible? Maybe people will (probably) rage at me and say I’m some PETA crazy – which I’m not btw – but if this is how service dogs really feel, maybe it’s time we find a better solution. Service dogs are not given an option. They are not asked if they want to work – the way we can ask another human. I am sure there are some dogs who love to do the work they were bread for – herding dogs come to mind – but this does not sound like that 😢


    • When you are working at your own job, do you not have times where you’d rather be scrolling Facebook than working? Do you not have times where you are distracted? Does that mean you no longer want to work? Or that you don’t enjoy the work you do? Just because the dog has times of wanting to go off and do other things doesn’t mean they don’t want to work at all. It just means that, like humans, they are imperfect creatures with occasional lapses in attention who sometimes would rather play than work. And that’s no different from any human on the planet. Even those who love their jobs (I do!) still have moments of, “I don’t wanna… I’d rather hang with my friends…” Even as a special needs parent, knowing how much my daughter depends on me for simple everyday living, I still have moments of grumbling and times I’d *rather* be doing something else. But I do it because it’s necessary, because it’s my job, and because others depend on me. That’s just how a job works.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Saying that the dog would rather be a social butterfly doesn’t mean that the dog is a) being abused or b) bored/resentful of the job. On the contrary, service dogs enjoy being working dogs – they have a purpose, they’re with their human, and it’s mentally satisfying. If they really had an aversion to it, they’d flunk out of the training. At worst for them, it beats getting left home alone all day with nothing to do, which is what most owners do with pet dogs. And they’re not constantly on-the-job either; they get breaks, just like working humans do. Just…when it’s safe for their owner, and not at the convenience of every demanding passer-by.
      And besides, even humans find that the job they enjoy has boring bits. Think of your most social butterfly friend: they have a job, right? Is that heart-breaking, too?
      My advice? Think of this as the doggy equivalent of a coworker encouraging you to start a break early because there are doughnuts (or other yummy snacks) in the break room, which might be nice of them but you have ten minutes to finish your presentation and send it to your boss, to prep for an important meeting. You know you shouldn’t, but it’s soooo tempting! Except in the dog’s case, it’s someone else’s life at stake, not just a meeting. And if too many people tempt the dog the same way, then it starts to think that’s the norm, not the work. And then it needs retraining or retiring, which is yet another expense that gets landed on the disabled owner (plus of course, time lost with the dog).
      Plus – where’s your concern for the owner in all this? LW doesn’t seem to have given them a single thought. No wave or smile for them. No “hi there – cool dog!”. The person in the wheelchair doesn’t exist for LW until they’re made visible by getting annoyed at the distraction to their dog. Now that’s what I call heart-breaking.

      Liked by 1 person

    • If I allowed my pet dog to visit with every other dog/person we met, then they wouldn’t be listening to me either – when crossing the street, when asking them not to eat that dead squirrel, when making sure they come to me if I drop the leash. Working dogs are the same. It’s not that kids, pet dogs, etc. are not being allowed to “be themselves” when following rules, it’s that there needs to be focus, boundaries and structure to any relationship, especially when you are responsible for their health and well being. If my dog didn’t work, she would be so so so bored with life. She would sit at home all day, be a couch potato and likely act out by being destructive in the house. She’s smart and loves people, which makes her perfect for her job. Her life is so much richer and more stimulating than it would be otherwise. And yes, when she gets home and gets that vest off, she can run around the backyard with her pet siblings and chill on the couch when I binge watch Netflix. It’s a great life for her. Trust me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oversimplifying. Not really a dog person, are you.
      I’ve worked and played around a LOT of service animals. Ditto around dogs doing other jobs. Also humans — lots and lots of working humans.
      You’d be amazed at how much mammals can LOVE their work and still be distractable, still love being loved up by random strangers, still tale their eye off the ball.
      Some individuals are more extroverted than average, and would love to spend their whole day meeting and greeting.
      It’s still not as fulfilling as work, not as meaningful as the deep bond they feel with the One Person they’re primarily attached to, whom they care for and care about, whom they have the tender privilege of helping in such important ways.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Service dogs get time when they’re “off duty” and they get to play and be played with. All working dogs love to do their jobs–if they don’t love it, they wouldn’t be effective at it. Still, they’re dogs and some of them are easily distracted. It doesn’t hurt them or abuse them that they can’t indulge their wishes every hour of every day. As an example, I have Livestock Guardian Dogs. They LOVE their job; I couldn’t make them stay away from the herds even if I wanted to. Still, they are deliriously happy to occasionally hop in the car and go for a ride. Does that mean they should become “car dogs”? No, it means that now and then they get a treat and that makes them happy.


    • Actually, they are given an option. 🙂 Service dogs DO flunk out of training and it’s generally because they’re not happy doing the job. A dog who is doing something they don’t want to do isn’t going to do it well.
      I had a friend who wanted to train a working Great Pyrenees (livestock guardian) to be her support/balance dog. Physically, he was ideal–strong, steady and just the right size for her. Temperamentally, he wasn’t suited. He hated being in crowds of people; he was overly “guardy” to his charge; he wasn’t prepared to take her word for it that a situation was safe. So, he flunked out of training because he repeatedly dragged her where he thought she should be (Walmart was NOT on his agenda) and got to go back to a flock of sheep and she got a dog who loved being with her all the time, who loved going into “people places”.
      That’s how Service Dogs get a choice. Nothing bad happens to them when they fail their training; they’re simply recognized as not suitable for *this* job. They often make great pets, leading lives as couch potatoes.


      • I’m also going to add here, because this definitely needs to be addressed. I took a huge chance on Annie. She’d been a three time foster return because she was always getting into things, she was too smart for her own good and she was BORED and destructive.

        Sure, it took a little extra work, and we tried several different programs before we found a combination that resonated with her, but “Work Annie” is a confident dog with a purpose and something to do with her extremely active mind. “Before Work Annie” was a hot mess. Everybody thought I was mad taking her on and training her to alert.

        I can assure you that she’s very happy working and very sad when she’s not. She likes the extra privilege she gets, especially the traveling. We have a deal. She protects me, I give her experiences most dogs never get.

        Liked by 1 person

    • What a load. No. Look, if you could, would you rather hang out on the beach all day, or would you rather work at your job, all other things being equal? Our dogs love their jobs, and us, because they wouldn’t do them, or certainly wouldn’t do them *well*, if they didn’t. That doesn’t mean that they don’t also love the attention they get, especially if they grew up to be social and human friendly, which they must do to become service dogs and work well in public. It’s that balance that they have to walk, and it’s up to us as the leader of our team to help them maintain that balance and understand the difference between work and non-work behavior. OK, so if you’re at work, even if you enjoy your job, which I hope you do, wouldn’t you rather go fishing?


  8. Lots of good points raised here.
    I have a diabetic alert dog and one of my biggest challenges on the regular when she’s doing public work is how incredibly nasty people can be. She has a patch that literally says DO NOT PET and I still get asked if she can be petted. And, of course, I tell them to bugger off. But I say it, “No, she’s working.” Then I’m the bitch. Yes. Yes, you heard me right. If I could possibly count the number of names I’ve been called while she’s working, it would be a very, very high number.
    Oh yeah. I may have The Diabetus, but I can still hear the things you mutter under your breath because I won’t let you touch my service animal that is clearly labeled DO NOT PET.
    That is all.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great discussion, thanks for sharing! I have a question about acceptable behavior and etiquette on this issue. I’m very careful not to distract, make eye contact, or engage with a service animal in any way. The one thing I do do once in a blue moon is look to the handler and say “your service dog is very handsome” or something similar. I’m disabled and considering a service animal in my near future, in addition to already having an ESA, and personally I enjoy these kinds of comments about my ESA when they’re not made with the expectation that I’m going to stop and engage in further discussion.

    This post has me reflecting though that this kind of comment might feel different for someone who is dealing all day with interference related to their service animal. My past experience has been that it’s been met positively and sometimes followed by the handler volunteering more information about their service animal/making a connection and talking more (though I always make it clear that I’m not expecting a conversation). But my perception could easily be different than handlers’ realities. And it’s an easy enough thing to stop doing if it’s a bad practice.

    I’d love to hear people’s thoughts, though I’m aware there may not be a consensus on the subject.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you to everyone who explained further about working dogs!! I was so afraid to post that comment because I thought it would get a lot of angry feedback – but I found all of your responses truly enlightening!! I do love what I do for work (one of the lucky ones) but I get 100% now what you are saying about how even then, sometimes I’d rather be off doing something else. That was a perfect way to put it in perspective. I admit I have zero experience with working/service dogs. I do see them out in public from time to time, but never pay attention to them – because luckily I at least knew that much (to leave them be).

    Thanks again everyone ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • I appreciate your caring enough to ask! I had a confrontation with a man that called me rude and disrespectful having my dog with me “in his way”. Which, we weren’t. I was trying to cross a parking lot and he was in a rush and impatient. I tried to explain, and explain that his honking his horn at us was disruptive to me and my dog. His response was “I don’t give a !#@*($^& about your dog.” I had to go sit down to avoid building up to an anxiety attack, which my SD would feel. He went in line (restaurant) and called someone on his cell phone – very LOUDLY complaining, repeating his side of the encounter, and saying “I’m right aren’t I” into the phone.

      so again – thank YOU for being willing to discuss and listen!


    • I owe you an apology. My tone was more confrontational than it probably needed to be. It’s just that we often get the whole “Oh those poor dogs” thing, where people seem to think that we have these dogs enslaved and they have such terrible lives. It’s a bit of a hot button, as you might imagine. In reality, our dogs have what they want most in the world. As my first guide dog’s puppy raiser put it, there’s nothing in the world our dogs want to do than take us for a walk, and ours get to do that all the time. Really, what with being able to be with their humans all the time, even with the necessary restrictions we put on them, our dogs have the best jobs in the world. Just you ask them. 🙂 Anyway, I’m sorry that I came off as more abrupt than was strictly necessary.


  11. It as been very educating to read all these comments.

    I wonder if peoples’ response to service dogs has anything to do with “cute aggression?” I know that when I see a service dog, OMG I want to pet and snuggle and give kisses, but I know I can’t, so I feel . . . not angry, but something sort of like it. My hands literally twitch a bit, lol

    Cute aggression hasn’t been studied much yet, but it sure seems to possibly be related to these experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Can you make eye contact with the handler and say hello? I don’t want to not acknowledge them as a human being. I know that people with disabilities often feel invisible too. Thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wow, reading all of your comments was enlightening, and disheartening. It’s truly disappointing to know that people are so rude and disrespectful to those who are disabled. I’m not disabled but I am a dog lover and have a little couch potato who brings me much joy and never hesitates to alert me to anyone walking down the street, or cats in the yard. Hopefully this article will help increase awareness and understanding among those who aren’t part of the disabled community.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. So I see many people saying that your dog isn’t supposed to leave you. This is both true and false. I have a service dog for my injuries due to combat. I am also a diabetic now. So one morning at about 0330 I had the flu and my blood sugar had dropped. I was in the process of going downstairs to the frig and get some orange juice to bring my sugar levels back up. I had apparently lost conciesness and fell down the stairs. I called to Donovan my dog and he went and got my phone for me and I called 911. When they arrived he unlocked the door and grabbed the EMT by the hand and led him to me. So yes they can leave you to get help.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “When they arrived he unlocked the door and grabbed the EMT by the hand and led him to me. So yes they can leave you to get help.

      At home – YES
      At a friends – YES
      At a Church – YES*
      At a Meeting/Work – YES*
      In a store? Regardless of what kind. – NO
      Downtown/Parking Lot? – NO
      A park? – NO

      * Provided people there are aware of the SD and what the training represents.

      Will add to the “No”. SD should be made to make a fuss. Maybe running from handler for a distance, then running back, but never let handler out of sight. Teach them to go to a uniform, to safely approach & entice the uniformed to follow. It is these areas where a SD could be stolen, or otherwise harmed. This doesn’t count the real possibility that while the SD can’t see the handler, if the handler is moved while the SD is looking.

      I’ve read too many first hand accounts from handlers who people have tried to take someone’s SD. From simple request, lying to management that the handler has “their dog”, grabbing a leash (or attempting to), grabbing the SD, SD size is not relevant, and finally attacking the handler to force them to give up their SD. Leads me to believe a SD without the handler in sight, is at risk. This doesn’t count the people who just don’t believe in SD & would gladly lie about what happens, or would kick at, aim carts at, the SD.

      Not only does the SD need to be trained to get someone, but what is the SD action when someone is found & the person rebuffs the SD? Just as long as the handler is aware of the risks of the task. I get it. Sometimes the handler has no choice.


  15. Are you paying that dog? Working 🙄.. You literally are using this dog and he has to give his whole life up to do so 🙄 selfish much. These dogs are just that dogs. They need love and attention. If you can take care of yourself pay someone to! His response made me angry bc it isn’t the place of an animal to take care of you. Just bc you call the service dogs doesn’t mean that is right. They literally have no choice in the matter. He said his dog would be a social butterfly, and would love attention. Uh yea duh! 🤦‍♀️ it’s wrong and you should feel bad. Hire a nurse, go live in a nursing home 🤷‍♀️ let’s not give y’all choices for real.


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