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Psychiatric Service Dog In Training

Image via Wikipedia

This post is inspired by a bad experience.  I’ll tell you that in advance, however, it is important that you teach your children how to act around a service dog especially in stores.

First, if you hear someone repeatedly saying (loudly) “Please leave the service dog alone” and you do not know where your children are in a store please go find them, especially if they do not know how to act around a service dog.

Second, if you hear someone saying even more loudly “Can the parent of these three children come get them” and you happen to have three children somewhere in the store that you aren’t currently parenting….  GO GET THEM.

It isn’t that I don’t like children, it’s just that my dog has his hands full working with me and doesn’t need the distraction of your children trying to pet him, jump on his back, pull his tail, etc.  I don’t want to have to parent your children for you, so please, be kind to us service dog users and get your children if they are harassing a service dog team.

The appropriate behavior for a child with a service dog team is to ignore (or at the most just stare at) the team.  Don’t play peekaboo around corners, don’t bother them.

If your child has questions about service dogs and approaches and asks them, I will probably be happy to answer them, as long as it’s not too personal.  Not everyone feels comfortable talking about their disability, what their dog does for them, or even what a service dog is.  It depends on the person.

You talk to the person, not the dog.  A person might just refuse, hopefully politely, to answer your question, or they may be happy to chat with you or your child about what the dog does.

You may not always be able to tell what a service dog does for a person by watching or it may be obvious.  Some people have disabilities that are not visible to the average person.  If the dog is vested, even in a place where there are other dogs, such as a pet store, treat it like it is working.

Some of the things I’ve heard parents say to children who were asking about my dog are:

  • That dog has a job to do, we can’t bother him
  • That person needs their dog to help them, we need to leave them alone
  • No, you see how that dog is dressed, that means we have to leave him alone.  He’s helping that girl.

Please, pretty please, teach your children that service dogs aren’t pets when they are wearing their vests.  It will be a huge relief to people like me when we are trying to shop, eat, or basically live normal lives.

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