Service dogs in public are working!I can’t say it any plainer. I don’t care if you can’t tell or not, if they are in a public space they are working, end of story. Most service dogs wear vests that say things like “working dog do not pet,”but American federal law does not require a dog to wear a vest or the owner to carry anything identifying the dog as a service animal, basically we use the vests to label our dogs service animals to save ourselves the headache of having a major argument about the dog’s presence every single time we leave the house. If you see a dog in a public space where dogs usually aren’t, vest or not, they are probably working. If you are interested in the dog’s presence, by all means. talk to the person on the other end of the leash. You may want to pet the dog, ask first, and realize that the handler is under no obligation whatsoever to allow it. Why? Service dogs in public are working. Even if all they are doing at that exact moment is sitting next to their handler or laying under a table. You do not know what this animal is trying to do and therefore even brief casual petting by a stranger can distract the dog and possibly put the human at risk. A good rule of thumb is to totally ignore the dog’s presence as much as possible It’s hard. I’ve had to find something,anything, for my hands to do so I wasn’t tempted to sneak pet another handler’s dog after they sad no, respect the no anyway. A service dog is an extension of the handler’s personal space . You don’t like strangers crowding your personal space, do you?Imagine you are at work and people are constantly calling your name, snapping their fingers, whistling, etc, trying to distract you from work. Chances are your employer is not going to be happy.However. if a service dog handler declines a request to pet our partner this is the response we often get”it’s just a dog,why can’t I pet him/her , often followed by an attempt to “sneak pet” them after I said no. It’s not just a dog. One of Gideon’s task is helping me cross streets safely(no I’m not blind but I have gotten hit while crossing the street in my wheelchair(before I got him) so now I have him check for cars even when I should have the right of way as a pedestrian. If some were to sneak pet him at the wrong moment while crossing a road that could be very bad. My personal policy about letting a stranger pet my dog while out in public is this, assuming you asked first, 80% of the time my answer will likely be yes, if I said no when you asked and you try to sneak pet either of them(my Aussie pup is going to start public outings soon) I will make as noisy as scene as possible , expect the same reaction if you don’t ask at all. You have been warned.
Author’s note: I will say again, I sometimes let others pet my dogs while they are in working gear.That is my personal choice,do not assume any other handler will do the same.