Thousands of Americans, especially veterans, suffer from serious conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury. For many of these people, a trained service dog is a lifesaving means of recovery and their best hope to continue a normal life. September is National Service Dog Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness and showing appreciation for the extraordinary work service dogs do every day for the people in their care. However, it’s also an opportunity to familiarize yourself with service dog etiquette.
Unfortunately, many people don’t know how to appropriately interact with service dog teams. Service dogs are not pets – they have been specially trained to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities and when they are in public, they are working. Many times, the handler’s physical and emotional safety depends on the service dog’s behavior.
American Humane is committed to harnessing the healing powers of the human-animal bond to assist veterans through its Pups4Patriots™ program, and our trainers have paired dozens of veterans with lifesaving service dogs. As such, here are some service dog etiquette tips that a veteran with a service dog wants you to know:
• Talk to the handler, not the dog
• Do not ask what the service dog is for or why they need a service dog
• Do not pet or ask to pet a service dog – s/he is working
• Do not try to distract a service dog
• Do not offer food or treats to a service dog
• Do not let your dog get close to a service dog
We hope the public will follow these tips to help ensure a safe, positive environment for all service dogs and their handlers.