a few questions about public....

The Service and Therapy Dog forum is for all service and therapy dogs regardless of whether or not their status is legally defined by federal or state law, how they are trained, or whether or not they are "certified." Posts questioning or disputing a person's need for a service or therapy dog, the validity of a person's service or therapy dog, or the dog's ability to do the work of a service or therapy dog are not permitted in this forum. Please keep discussions fun, friendly, and helpful at all times.

(Page 1 of 3: Viewing entries 1 to 10)  
Page Links: 1  2  3  

did someone say- 'cheese'??
Barked: Sat Nov 27, '10 9:05am PST 
Gus and I have started going out as a SD team in training (have read the state laws) to some of the local places. Places I normally go to like the fabric store and other smaller local shops. We haven't ventured to any grocery type stores or restaurants yet. Trying to keep things slow. Having Gus with me makes things much easier. I can be out and know that he will alert me if I'm having problems. I've been able to go out more than I usually do.

I have him vested and his patches are big and what I think is easy to read. He blends in with the floors here quite easily so I make sure he has a solid bold shirt on under his purple vest so that he is a bit more visible.

Here are two issues I'm having, and hoping to get some advice or tips on:

1. People don't notice my dog. He is little and he is low to the ground, he does seem to blend in, he is also super quiet. Gus has been close to stepped on many times. He does his best to watch out for feet, but he is also focused on me and I don't want that to change. Sometimes if I know it will be a super busy place (we went to the hardware store yesterday -- CRAZY BUSY), I will put him in his sling carrier. But the majority of the time I like him to walk, I think he prefers to walk. I just don't want him to get stepped on and have a bad experience while we are training. Is there a way to make him more visible? Or is this just something that happens and we will have to be more aware of personal space?

2. What do I tell them when they ask me what I have/ what condition he alerts to? It isn't demanding... it is out of conversation, like curiosity. Usually what happens is after we've been in the store for 20-30 minutes the manager rushes over to inform me pets are not allowed. Then I inform them he is a SDIT. They say okay, sorry and smile. Then Gus is the center of all the clerks' attention (in a good way). They all start to comment on how cute he is, then the questions start. Should I just answer, "I'd rather not say." ? I don't want to be rude or anything like that. But I don't feel comfortable saying what my disabilities and health issues are....

Thanks everyone!

-Gus' mom
Graciella- Louisa- (Gracie)

OCD- Occupational- Companion Dog
Barked: Sat Nov 27, '10 9:31am PST 
1) i think that other than having him wear a brightly colored shirt and vest, you could get a brightly colored, thick leash. that way people will notice the leash connected to you and be likely to notice something on the other end.

2) hmmmm this is a problem... if someone walks a little funny or talks a little funny, noone dares ask them why, so why is it that if you have a dog people suddenly feel comfortable asking you such personal questions. i would say you can say that he is my medical alert dog, or he alerts me when i'm having problems, something along those lines. i dont really know what exactly your disability is or what guss does for you , but you said he "alerts" you, so i would just say he is my medical alert dog, and then if they prod further, just say that you would preffer not to answer.

he is just the cutes thing! and good luck with the training and everything!
Iris vom- Zauberberg

Service Werewolf
Barked: Sat Nov 27, '10 9:42am PST 
Ollie's person has a great post about sound bytes we can use with the public depending on how we're feeling.

One I like to use when I'm in a bit of a hurry, and when I don't feel like disclosing my MI is: "medical response. She knows what to do when I get sick."

I don't ever give details beyond that to a gatekeeper. To an interested clerk or patron, I sometimes stop and share that I have an MI that causes hallucinations and that Iris helps me navigate. I have a pamphlet (very similar to Ollie's) that I give out fairly freely that has SD etiquette as well as some specifics of how Iris helps me.


did someone say- 'cheese'??
Barked: Sat Nov 27, '10 9:46am PST 
Hi Gracie...


Gus is a medical alert dog. I have some psychiatric disabilities (dissociative disorder, PTSD, anxiety disorder). But I also have a chronic endocrine disorder that after Gus and I started training for him to be a PSD, I found he alerts me to my medical condition. My electrolytes drop suddenly, I get boughts of hypoglycemia, and terrible vertigo spells that come without warning. Gus has alerted me to all of these. So I do call him a medical alert dog. But they ask me... "What condition does he alert to?"


Thanks for the leash idea. Our leash is black. But maybe a colorful one would be better!

did someone say- 'cheese'??
Barked: Sat Nov 27, '10 9:50am PST 
Hi Iris, Thanks!

I've been considering a pamphlet for Gus... but not sure what to put on it. I do have cards with the laws on them to hand out. But I've been thinking about making pamphlets. I'll look for Ollie's post and their pamphlet.


Super Silver- Service Spoodle
Barked: Sat Nov 27, '10 9:54am PST 
I think walking him next to you in a tight heel with a brightly colored vest is a good idea. I know that Punkin is a small SD here on dogster, and she's tried a variety of colored vests. She says that red stands out best in terms of people seeing your dog, and also looking professional. So maybe try a red vest or harness? I know red is the color little Dora uses, too. If you are in a real crush of people, I think it is fine to either pick your dog up for a bit, or tell people to watch out for your dog. On the subway train I often tell people who are standing near us with their backs to us to watch out for Ollie, for example.

I'll repost in my next post here my tips for interacting with the public... gotta go find it.

Super Silver- Service Spoodle
Barked: Sat Nov 27, '10 9:55am PST 
Here is the thing I've written for interacting with the general public. I originally wrote it on the PSDS listserv, and have been posting it here lately, too, when requested.

Repost from 2/2007 with updates 9/2010

It often happens that members of the general public ask us questions about our disability or our SD. I've found that having some memorized responses handy really helps out. That way you don't have to think each time you are asked a question. From these stock responses you can craft an answer to pretty much any question. You don't have to answer exactly the same question that the person asks you. They are asking a question because they are interested in service dogs and want to know more. If you answer a slightly different question, they often won't realize that you didn't answer their question. For example, to a whole bunch of questions about service dogs you can respond with a list of various things service dogs can do. Just mention what your service dog does in that list, and you're answering their question probably.

The most important thing to remember is people are not asking questions because they are trying to be mean. Usually they don't know any better and are excited about seeing a service dog. I know it doesn't always feel like that-- especially with some of the more intrusive questions. But really people just don't realize what they are doing isn't the nicest way to interact. If you are polite to them, they will be open to learning more about service dogs and the proper etiquette, and therefore nicer to you and other SDs in the future. They will also be more likely to help you in the future if you have an access challenge or a medical emergency.

What kind of dog is that?
I always respond to this question with my dog's breed. About half the time people are asking about the breed, and half the time they are asking if it is a SD. So I start with the more innocuous one first.

Is that a guide dog?
If I am in a public access challenge situation (in other words when I am talking with a gatekeeper) I answer "Yes, he is a service dog". They only want to hear the "yes", and then you are politely correcting their language. If it is a member of the general public I say "No, he is a service dog".

Are you a puppy raiser, or are you training that dog?
If your dog is a SDIT, it is fine to say "Yes". You don't have to explain that you are training or raising the dog for yourself. If you are comfortable saying so, you can say "Yes, I'm training him for me."

If you have a full SD, you can say "No, he's for me" and I find adding "I'm the one with the disability" on the end helps people to get it. If you say say the dog is for you, often they are very confused and will ask "what for?". If you add the "I'm the one with a disability" on the end, the disability word usually gets them to remember they're not supposed to ask people about their disabilities.

What is the dog for/what is your disability?
If you don't want to reveal anything about your disability, you can respond with a list of things service dogs can do like "Service dogs can help out with many things-- they can alert to sounds, alert to siezures, migranes, panic attacks and other mental illness, retrieve dropped items for people with mobility impairments, and so on."

You can also say "I'd rather not discuss my disability" or "He helps with my disability".

If you are comfortable revealing a little more information, if your dog does alert work you can say "My dog warns me before I get sick" or "He is a medical alert dog". If your dog responds to your mental illness, you can say your dog is a medical response dog. If they press for more information, you can say you'd rather not discuss your disability.

Some of us for personal reasons have decided to be more open about our mental illness. I am one of those people, as I find not being ashamed of my MI helps others to not be ashamed about it either. Self-acceptance leads to tolerance and acceptance from others. I've now revealed my disability to many people and almost always I get either a neutral or very positive response. My response is "He alerts to my panic attacks and bipolar mood swings". If you have a perception disorder you might say "She is for hallucination discernment". I've been out with Linden when she says this and very rarely does anyone react negatively.

Do you have seizures/diabetes?
People seem to have heard of these types of SDs fairly frequently, as this is a pretty common question. If you don't want to reveal the nature of your disability, you can say "I have something similar where I get sick with no warning". Or you can just say "No", or even respond with the nature of your disability if you feel comfortable doing so.

You don't look disabled!
The best response to this is "Thank you" with a smile. If you get defensive when people say this, it rarely turns out to be a good encounter, so keeping it short, sweet, and positive is a great way to get the person to hear what they said and think about it. If you feel like adding anything else you can say "Not all disabilities are visible".

How long do you get to keep the dog?
If you have a SDIT and don't want to reveal anything about your disability you can say "It usually takes about 1-2 years to train a service dog."

If you have a full SD, you can say "I get to keep him for life!". Since I now have a retired SD at home, if I am in a chatty mood I'll usually tell the person that my retired SD is at home taking a nap. Sometimes I exaggerate and say she's watching TV or enjoying hogging the couch. People like to hear that the dog stays with you for life.

What school/program are you with?
My stock response is "I am training him (or did the training) myself". The flyer I hand out (more on that later) has my trainer's contact information, so I usually direct them to that information if they seem interested.

If you don't want to reveal that your dog is owner-trained or that you are in the process of owner-training you can say "I hired a wonderful trainer to train her" (yes, you can say this because you yourself are a wonderful trainer!) or "We are working with a wonderful trainer". Or you can say "service dogs can be trained by many different schools, organizations, private trainers and even the disabled handler herself!"

Other helpful hints
Something I think a lot of people forget is that not only can you memorize answers to these types of questions, but you can also memorize the body language that goes with them. If you want to get people to go away faster, turn your head away and use body language to make that clear. If you just stand there looking at the person like you expect a response, you will get drawn into a conversation. That's fine if you want it, but if you don't, it's good to practice using your body language to tell people that the conversation isn't going to be a long one. It's best to role play using these answers and various types of body language with a friend or family member so that this sort of stuff becomes second nature. You can also hang out with other SD teams in your area and watch how they interact with the general public.

The thing that has been the most helpful to me in interacting with the general public has been the creation of a flyer about my service dog. Whenever anyone asks pretty much any question about my dog, I offer them a flyer. The flyer has information on service dog etiquette as well as information about my service dog. I have saved Sabrina's flyer which I made when I was not comfortable revealing my disability to anyone. You can see it here:


I also have Ollie's flyer, in which I reveal my diagnosis to anyone who reads the flyer. You can see it here:


There are lots of flyers online. PSDS has a FAQ flyer (link below), and many other flyers are available. Many listmembers have created flyers, too.


One final point is that sometimes you are stuck somewhere with people around who are really interested in your service dog. This happens to me frequently when in the train station, for example. If people keep asking you questions and you are not in the mood to interact with people, you can do a quick run-through of your tricks. It is a good way to sort-of interact with other people while not doing so directly. It also keeps you focused on your dog which reduces my anxiety, and can show people some of the cool things SDs can do. I often have Ollie pick up his leash and/or a flyer. I have him shake my feet or hands, do fun turns where he swings his bum around while keeping his front end still, have him lift his feet when I life my feet, do leg weaves, etc. Then when my train comes I hop on and tell people "goodbye" (this is very important so they don't then sit next to you!) as I find an empty seat.

I hope that helps, and please don't hesitate to bring up any other questions that you'd like a stock response to.
Scruffy- Personal Super Dog

Personal Super- Dog
Barked: Sat Nov 27, '10 10:26am PST 
Scruffy is low to the ground to so he has a bright orange jacket I had everything put on. Sometimes though he rides in the basket that I have a cheap fleece throw blanket under him. It is funny because folks say "Awe he is an Auburn fan" Nope he is a fan of not getting stepped on. LOL laugh out loud
Scruffy- Personal Super Dog

Personal Super- Dog
Barked: Sat Nov 27, '10 10:31am PST 
BTW Ollie Thank you so much for the awesome information!!!
Maizie Moo

Yup, I'm a- fashion diva,- DEAL!
Barked: Sat Nov 27, '10 11:01am PST 
Great suggestions, can't add much but to say Maizie is very tiny (under 9 lbs) & I worry a lot about her getting stepped on. She's pretty good at avoiding feet, but if I think it's too crowded I carry her in her Sling-go or use her stroller on long day trips out shopping (usually at Christmas time when the malls/stores are crowded).

Scruffy, do you mean you put him in the shopping cart?... if so, that's sooooo not a good practice. Don't get me wrong, I think most dogs are cleaner then a lot of kids in stores lol but unless you're in a store like Petsmart/Petco?... dogs should not be in shopping carts where people put food. JMO.
  (Page 1 of 3: Viewing entries 1 to 10)  
Page Links: 1  2  3