polite

Things You Don't Comment On:

- someone’s eating habits

- appearance issues that can’t be fixed there and then

- someone else’s “bad” decision if it can’t now be undone

- someone’s laugh or voice

- someone’s “unrealistic” dreams

- someone “not looking their best” in photos

- someone not wanting to do something and trying to subtly avoid it without making a fuss

- anything that you know will make someone self conscious or insecure unnecessarily

The Zodiac Signs in an Uncomfortable Conversation

Remains polite but has shifty eyes: Gemini, Cancer, Virgo, Libra, Capricorn, Pisces

Makes their disinterest in the other person obvious (faces away, gives one word answers): Aries, Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Aquarius

Dealing with Crowds and Service Dog Etiquette

Below are some suggestions for dealing with crowds when you have a Service Dog. When travelling in busy areas or cities you can face a lot of issues, not all of them access-related. You need to be wary of people trampling your dog and approaching you to ask questions. If you are anxious or unsure about how to handle these situations the list I have written may be useful to you.

Ways to deal with crowds:

  • If travelling with a friend or group of people, keep your Service Dog between you and one of them so that they are more concealed and invite fewer people to approach.
  • When travelling on busy transport, keep your leg on the outside of your dog and have them sit close to you to avoid them being stood on or sliding when the transport makes any sudden stops and starts.
  • Always walk on the side of the road when travelling with your Service Dog, this avoids incidents with people driving too close to the curb or your dog being pushed onto the road if you are nudged by a crowd member. If you have your dog clearly vested people should hopefully give you more space on the sidewalk. (Note- This point may be contradictory to what some Service Dogs are trained to do. Guide Dogs in particular are trained to stand in front of cars so that in the event of being hit when crossing a road etc, the dog is a buffer than can protect the human. I merely state that you should be vigilant about roads in the case of an incident that is non-life-threatening to you but very harmful to your dog. If your dog is seriously injured, your independence will be affected as a result of this.)
  • Make sure your dog is clearly marked as a Service Dog with patches that remind people to not pet or distract them. Yes, a lot of people tend not to read them, but it can help deter the ones that do.
  • If you struggle with anxiety and people approaching you to ask about your dog, some patches can be purchased that ask people NOT to approach the handler as it causes anxiety. Consider in investing in ones of these. They can be found on Ebay.
  • On more basic grounds, if you wish to avoid getting into conversation use the simple trick of avoiding eye contact and listening to an mp3 player if possible. It might not always work, but if you aren’t eyeing people back it tends to be less inviting grounds for a conversation.
  • Have a pretend phone call.
  • Have a real phone call.
  • Carry small business cards around with you with information on them. A few of my friends do this. You can have basic info on them or website links that explain things such as: What your Service Dog is trained in, What organisation trained them (if you did not owner-train) and links to places where people can read more if they are interested. It can help if you don’t want to appear rude or dismissive but still want to help educate people about Service Dogs. On cards you can explain that you may have not been feeling very well, but appreciate the interest of the person before giving brief snippets of information about your Service Dog.
  • If somebody tries to pet your dog, a way to deal with this is to place your hand under theirs so that they would come into contact with you rather than your dog. This is often enough to deter people who have either been too rude to ask if they can pet your dog or have ignored your request for them not to.

HOW TO BEHAVE AROUND A SERVICE DOG

Many people approach Service Dog handlers out of simple curiosity. Not everyone has bad intentions. Even though it can be repetitive and tiresome to hear 20 times a day how somebody has a dog ‘just like yours’ or wishes their dog was as well trained or has a distant relative who has a Service Dog, the general public can often not realise this. Here I will discuss simple Service Dog etiquette. For the sake of handlers everywhere, please take these points into account:

  • Do NOT pet the dog without permission. As a rule of thumb it is best not to ask to pet the dog at all, they are working and if distracted they can fail to perform important tasks such as alerting to medical emergencies. There have been instances in which people have suffered seizures after their Service Dogs have been distracted from alerting them. It is dangerous to distract a Service Dog.
  • READ THE PATCHES! Service Dogs do not just wear those glaring bright patches that read 'Do Not Pet’ to look pretty. Please read and respect them.
  • Do not allow your dog to approach a Service Dog if it is working. If you are in doubt ASK whether it is alright for you to introduce your dog. This is especially important if your dog is unruly or aggressive. If a Service Dog is injured by another dog you are seriously affecting the independence of the handler. If a Service Dog is injured it is unable to work. If the dog is unable to work, the handler may be rendered unable to do everyday tasks for a long period of time. It’s not worth the risk.
  • Never feed a Service Dog.  A lot of dogs are on specialized diets and may have health conditions that make them unable to tolerate certain foods. I have had a dog with years of pancreatitis and hypothyroidism - if somebody fed him anything remotely high in fat he would become so seriously ill that his life was in danger. Do NOT feed other people’s dogs. You don’t know their health conditions or dietary requirements. Regardless of health, it is also a distraction. 
  • Speak to the person, not the dog. Handlers often find that they are 'invisible’ when they have their dog. People always address the dog first and show interest in the dog, but not the person. This can be regarded as rude and a tad disrespectful. Consider the handler.
  • Don’t whistle, call out or harass a Service Dog. This is a distraction and as mentioned before, distractions are dangerous.
  • Make sure your children don’t approach or pet a Service Dog. This is a distraction and even though it may appear 'cute’ or 'funny’ it’s still dangerous. On more general terms it is also a good idea to educate your children on how to approach a dog correctly. Although Service Dogs are no risk to people, children should be taught not to rush over to unfamiliar dogs. Not all dogs are friendly and you do not want your child to get hurt by an aggressive or anxious dog.
  • Do not assume the disability of the handler or ask what their disability is. Quite frankly, that is private and personal. You wouldn’t ask somebody why they are in a wheelchair, so you most certainly shouldn’t ask why they have a Service Animal. Not everyone with a Service Dog is deaf or blind. Be respectful of the different disabilities out there and treat the person as you would treat any other. Some people may not mind offers for help, but a great deal are happy to be left to get on with their day with the help of their Service Dog.
  • Be respectful of the dog. You may not like animals or be fearful of dogs. That is alright, but it is important to recognise that Service Dogs are highly trained. They would NOT be a Service Dog if they are aggressive or in any way a risk to people. These dogs are valued family members that are clean, gentle and just trying to get their job done. Most handlers will do their best to keep their dog at a distance to you if you are uncomfortable with them, but this is not always possible. It is rude (and illegal) to ask someone with a Service Dog to move or leave the premises because you don’t like dogs, 'have allergies’ or are fearful of them. Compromises can be met, but please have some respect.
  • Do not be rude to the handler if they don’t permit you to touch their dog or ask you not to distract them. They have a good reason for asking this.
  • Do not ask a Service Dog handler to have their dog 'demonstrate’ a task.
  • Do not take pictures or record a Service Dog without the handler’s permission.
  • Be considerate about the comments you make. 'But you’re so young!’, 'Are you training him?’, 'I wish I could take my dog everywhere, that’s so cool!’, 'You don’t look disabled’, 'You must be faking it’, 'Are you blind?’ They may seem innocent to you but are invasive to a handler. Put yourself in their shoes.


Remember when responding to people approaching you and your Service Dog…

  • Be patient. You may be tired or having a bad day, but try to be polite. You are representing Service Dog teams and it’s important that you don’t give others a bad name or reputation by being rude to people approaching you out of curiosity.
  • You do not have a 'duty’ to educate the public, but if you have the time or energy to spread a bit of knowledge it can help. Let people know simple things about Service Dog etiquette and how to behave around a Service Dog for future reference. The more people that are educated, the easier it is for future Service Dog teams.

  • If you don’t feel like talking, try using the small business card idea I mentioned earlier.