Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Service Dog Do's and Don'ts

Yesterday, Lucy and I were out for our morning walk on the trail by our apartment complex when someone came forward and suddenly reached out to pet her. I always make sure Lucy wears her work vest anytime she is outside the apartment so people know that she is a working dog and shouldn't be distracted, but some people just can't help themselves.
I dealt with the issue by saying, "Sir, now isn't a good time to pet the dog she is working," and watched him go on his way. Parents, please remind your children that it is never a good idea to pet a dog they are unfamiliar with unless the owner gives permission.

While a dog may seem cute and engaging, he may not be properly trained or accustomed to people  which may cause him to get aggressive.
Americans like dogs . People like dogs Period. America has the highest rate of dog ownership in any well developed nation worldwide.   Before you  acquire a service dog for your child, be aware that people will naturally want to come up and see the dog.

Once your child understands that the dog is a working dog and not a pet, that the dog can accompany him in public and so on, sit down and ask him something like: "If someone comes up and asks to pet your dog while he is with you, what might be a good way to ask them not to do that?"  If your child is receiving a dog due to autism, consider using a social story or role playing to come up with polite ways to interact with the public when the child is with his dog. If you have another family dog at home whom your child gets along well with, consider bringing him or her into the activity as well.

It may also help to show the child pictures of service dogs in their work vests and explain to him that  when the dog  is in his vest he is working, but when he isn't, people can pet him.  For a child with autism and speech difficulty, many online sites make patches that say things like: "SERVICE DOG AT WORK DO NOT PET" etc. Even if your child is on the spectrum but has normal speech,  these patches often make things a lot easier. Many companies even make patches for specific diagnoses which can be sewn onto the dog's vest.

It may also be helpful to carry a small index card in the dog's vest pocket with the federal regulations regarding service dogs in case the dog were ever to be denied access to a public place. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, a service dog, and in some states, service dogs in training are allowed full access to public establishments nationwide where any customer or  visitor is normally permitted. Places like Staples and Office Max will mount the card on card stock and laminate it for around $2.00

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