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What to Do and What Not to Do Around a Service Dog

guide dog and other service dogs and animals are very helpful for persons with specific disabilities
Samyak Lalit
Samyak Lalit | August 4, 2021 (Last update: August 4, 2021)

Samyak Lalit is an author and disability rights activist. He is a polio survivor and the founder of projects like Kavita Kosh, Gadya Kosh, TechWelkin, WeCapable, Dashamlav and Viklangta Dot Com. Website:

Many of us love to pet dogs whenever we see one. Those cute little creatures deserve our attention and love… this is what many of us think. But, we might be wrong at many points. Sweet animals like a dog obviously deserve lots of love. But, petting every dog might not be the right thing. Many of the dogs you see in the streets or other public places are service dogs, this means they are on duty! Petting a service dog is just like disturbing a person engrossed in important office work. It is absolutely wrong.

In this article, we are sharing etiquette that we all must follow around a service dog. Let’s learn some manners.

Put Service Dogs on your ‘Do Not Disturb’ List Permanently

Service dogs are not pets. They are always on duty, especially in public places. So, we should put them on our ‘do not disturb’ list permanently. When we say we should not disturb a service dog, it does not only mean petting or touching them.

When you are around a service dog –

  • DO NOT
    • Try to talk to, whistle, coo or bark at the service dog
    • Try to pet or touch the dog
    • Stare or make eye contact with the dog (by the way staring at the handler too is a bad manner)
    • Tap your feet or clap around the dog
    • Let your children approach the dog
    • Let your pet approach the service dog
    • Praise or clap when you see a service dog complete a task
    • Try to feed the dog (it’s not only about distraction. Some service dogs are on special diets.)
    • Give any command to a service dog (even if you feel it would be good for the dog or handler)

In a nutshell, do not do anything that can potentially disturb or distract a service animal.

Don’t Freak Out When You See a Service Dog in a ‘No-Pet Area’

While most people love dogs, some of us may not have a very good experience with dogs. Some people also get irritated to see that their pet is not allowed at some places but someone else is allowed. Whenever you see a dog entering with a handler in a no-pet area, rest assured that the dog is a service animal and not a pet. Service animals are an extension of their handler. Do not judge the handler if they don’t ‘seem’ to be disablednot all disabilities are visible. You might have a bad experience with a dog (dog bites are seriously dangerous) but you should know that service animals are rigorously trained and their training includes keeping their temper in check. Only the most obedient and well-mannered dogs are chosen to be service dogs.

If you still fear dogs or if you have an allergy you can politely move a little far. The law does not allow you to ask the service dog to be taken out of an area (unless it’s out of control of the owner) or misbehave with the handler for bringing the service dog.

guide dog and other service dogs and animals are very helpful for persons with specific disabilities

Do Not Ask for a Demonstration of a Service Dog’s Work

You might be really excited to know that service dogs are trained to do a variety of tasks for their handler. But, keep your eagerness in check and don’t ever ask a handler to demonstrate the work of their dog. It’s rude. Service dogs are not trained for providing entertainment to random people on street. It’s weird to approach someone randomly and ask them to order their service dog to show you how it can dial 911 or pull a wheelchair or do any task for which it has been trained. Even if you are the owner of a facility, say a shop, where pets are not allowed, you cannot legally ask for a demo to ensure that the dog is a service dog. If a person says the dog accompanying them is a service dog required due to a disability, you have to take her words to be absolutely true. You cannot even ask about the person’s disability… health issues are private matters. You can, at max, ask for what task has the dog been trained.

Don’t Try to Help a Guide Dog or any Service Dog

You might be a very caring person at heart who loves to assist people in need. But, it’s never a good idea to assume someone to be in need without asking. If a visually impaired or blind person is walking with their guide dog, please don’t try to help them by grabbing the hand of the handler or harness of the dog. The service dogs are trained individually for their specific handler with the intention to make the person self-reliant. Your attempt to help them will confuse the dog and the handler may even get physically hurt (they will obviously find you rude). Similarly, when you see a dog pull a wheelchair at curbs or help their handler stand or maintain balance, don’t rush to their help. They actually don’t need any help. In case you feel, for any reason, the person needs help or the service dog is lacking somewhere in its duty, you may politely ask the person if there’s any need for help. You’ll get the most genuine answer.

Inform the Handler if a Service Dog Approaches You

When service dogs are ‘on duty’ they need to behave in a certain way. Their full attention should be on their owner and they are not allowed to play around like pets. So, if a service dog sniffs you or nudges you, tell the handler politely without indulging with the dog. The handler needs to correct the dog’s behavior. The best thing to do around a service dog is to ignore it completely as if it does not exist, talk to the handler instead.

Having said all that, if a service dog approaches you without a handler it is most probably asking you for help. In such cases you should follow the dog, you might save someone’s life. Seizure dogs are generally trained to get external help for the handler. Their vest pocket contains details about the course of action that needs to be taken in such an emergency.

Use the citation below to add this article to your bibliography

"What to Do and What Not to Do Around a Service Dog." Web. May 24, 2024. <>, "What to Do and What Not to Do Around a Service Dog." Accessed May 24, 2024.

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2 responses to “What to Do and What Not to Do Around a Service Dog”

  1. My friend recently opened a milk tea shop; it’s good to know that if the owner advised that the dog accompanying them is a service dog, we no longer need to ask for proof or a demo that it is a service dog; instead, take their words to be true.
    I like how you said not to disturb a dog on duty as this may lead to confusion and hurt their handler.
    I will share this with my sister to further understand what we can and cannot do around service dogs.

  2. Avatar delores a cole says:

    great information. thank you for sharing.

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