Although many people know that you are not supposed to pet Service Dogs when they are working, few understand the reasoning behind this rule. Even fewer people realize that you should not DISTRACT an assistance dog in ANY WAY.
What exactly does this mean? This means:
NO talking to
NO saying his/her name
NO eye contact
NO action in the attempt to get the dog’s attention
So, now to the question everybody wants to ask…WHY?
The simple answer is that the dog is there to keep his/her partner safe. When the dog is distracted he is not paying attention to his job and his disabled human handler could very easily get hurt, ending up broken and bleeding. Broken and bleeding is BAD. You can’t pet Service Dogs because it’s distracting, and if a working dog is distracted because of something you do and their handler gets sick or injured, it’s your fault.
Of course, Service Dogs are trained to ignore these types of distractions, but they are still dogs. No dog is infallible and no amount of working can make a dog completely impervious to any and all possible distractions. All people have a responsibility to not deliberately try to take a working dog’s attention away from his job or handler.
So what should you do when you encounter a Service Dog team? You should simply ignore the dog completely. Pretend that he or she simply isn’t there. Interact with the human partner as you would any other person.
“But? Shouldn’t I at least say hi? Isn’t it rude not to at least say hello?” NO. Read that again. NO. JUST PRETEND THE DOG IS NOT THERE. Rest assured that the human partner will not think you are rude for ignoring their dog. Instead, they will marvel at your stellar Service Dog etiquette!
So what have we learned? When it comes to Service Dogs, the rule is NO DISTRACTION. No touch, no talk, no eye contact. Why? So that, quite simply put, the human half of the Service Dog team does not end up broken and bleeding.