A Service Dog is trained to assist someone in need in several ways. Keep in mind that it is primarily a medical assistance aid and should be treated as such.
First, do not pet, make noises, or call to the Assistance Dog. If the dog is wearing its harness/vest/backpacks, this means it is working and should never be patted, or distracted by having its name called, this can distract it from it’s duties and be harmful to it’s handler. Do not give it excessive eye contact, make noises at it, or make it the center of attention. These may all cause the dog to take its concentration off the job and put the handler’s safety at risk.
Second, do not feed the dog. The Service Dog is fed a balanced diet by its handler. Other people should never feed the Service Dog. It may then learn to be on the lookout for tidbits, which again will distract the dog and place the handler’s safety at risk. It may also lead to obesity and health problems, possibly causing the dog’s working life to be shortened. If the Service Dog is not working, always ask the handler first for permission. If the handler agrees, always talk or pat the dog in a quiet and calm manner.
Next, talk to the handler, and not to the dog! Remember to talk to the Service Dog handler and not only to the dog. It is very frustrating for the Service Dog handler when people constantly talk to the dog and not to the handler. The Service Dog handler has been trained in the most appropriate techniques for working or correcting the dog. Please only provide assistance if requested by the Service Dog handler.
Keep these items in mind when running across a Service Dog and their handler and you’ll be safe and supportive.