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Education, Special Needs

Service Dog Etiquette Guide

Service dogs are becoming more and more popular, so the entire family needs to know how to act around these animals. People have service dogs for several different reasons like they are visually impaired, in a wheelchair, or have epilepsy. Similar to a random person on the street asking about your private health information, it’s rude to ask an individual with a service animal why they need or have one. 

In Louisiana, a service animal is a dog who is trained to do work or tasks for someone with a disability, whether physical or mental, explains Nolo. A service dog might be a guide dog, a hearing dog, a mobility dog, an autism service dog, a seizure alert dog, a dog that assists in a medical crisis, or a dog that assists people (including veterans) with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries.

So, refrain from your questions, and remember, never judge a book by its cover. 

1. Do Not Touch

These are working animals – not pets. Service dogs play a vital part in the owner’s well-being, and like all dogs, these pups love pats and scratches. These diligent canines are working hard, often doing things you might not even notice. Yet, going up to and touching these animals without permission can distract the dog. 

2. Keep Your Dog Away 

Imagine working on an important project, and your friend shows up and distracts you. This is similar to bringing your non-service dog near a working dog. Keep your pets at a distance, and always check with the owner first. 

3. Never Feed Them

Generally, it’s a no-brainer not to feed someone else’s dog. But when it comes to service animals, it’s crucial. Oftentimes, these animals are on a tight feeding schedule and a strict diet. So, resist the urge to share your snacks – it’s for their own good.

4. Seeing a Loose Service Dog

If you’re walking and see a marked service dog without their owner, this probably means the owner needs help. If a service dog nudges or barks without its human, don’t just brush it off or shoo the dog away. Follow them, identify the situation, and, if necessary, call 911. 

Overall, use common sense when you see a service dog and ensure the little ones in the family know the rules, too. 

This article was originally published in May 2024.

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