I was at the hospital today visiting someone. As we walked into the hospital, we saw someone with a service dog waiting to pay for parking. I also the person in front of us reach out and start petting the dog. I wanted to warn the person not to do it but it was too late. The person with the service dog needed to tell the person to stop.
I understand this situation from both sides. We have a service dog (now retired) in our family. He is an autism service dog and we worked with our son Logan. The purpose of the service dog was for safety for Logan. Logan was tethered to Halo and he could go only as far as the dog would let him.
When we would be out, there would often be people who would try and pet Halo. I usually was able to stop people. There would be a few people who would ask first. It was still a no but I appreciated that they asked. There was a big badge on his jacked that said “Don’t pet,” but most people didn’t seem to notice.
It is important not to pet a service dog when they are in jacket. There is meant to be a strict difference between life in and out of jacket. When they are in jacket, they are working. Petting a service dog in jacket confuses them. It also teaches them to seek attention when they are supposed to be focused on the needs of the person they are working with.
When a dog is out of jacket, they are a dog. We played hard with Halo when he was out of jacket and had lots of fun. But when that jacket was on, it was strictly business.
At the same time, I understand the temptation. Our dog is adorable and so are many service dogs. We had people who knew they were not supposed to pet Halo but loved him so much that they would put their hands in their pockets to stop themselves.
I know that it is hard, but if you see a service dog of any kind, do not pet them if they are in jacket. Even if you can’t identify a person with a disability, the dog is off limits.