Let people pet your service dog

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.

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Member Since
Barked: Wed Jan 30, '13 12:25pm PST 
I trained my own service dog and one of the key components of his training was letting people pet him. One of the first things I discovered was that little kids love dogs. The first time I took Jethro to the mall I was talking to somebody about him and when I turned around and looked Jethro had a 3 year old hanging from his neck, they where both giving each other kisses. Jethro is a Dogue De Bordeaux/AmStaff mix and about 90 lbs. I learned very quickly that your better off letting the dog be social, it does not take much to teach them that work comes first. Trust me after two months of getting petted none stop they don't like it so much anymore and the problem is self correcting.
This has worked so well that when we go to our normal places, the store, gym, out to eat I don't even have to put him on leash. The other bonus is when people like your service dog they will stand up for him.
Last night at 24 Hour Fitness this nut went off about being allergic to dogs and told me he was going to sue and so on. The Club manager told him to go to a different location or they would refund this months dues and he could stop coming. I love 24 Hour Fitness. Plus the other guys in the locker room laid in to him when I walked out.
My point here is that it seems to me that the service dog training industry is telling us a lot of lies. I trained my own dog because of what I saw when I looked at proffesionaly trained service dogs. I found out they could not be off leash, they had no social skills and they would bite when scared.As I'm writing this I can't remember the last time I had Jethro on leash.
Yes the police tried and failed to make the arguments most of you are going to make. They failed because he is that good and everyone loves him. So as soon as they start in the public stands up for Jethro and they look very bad. There is a very good chance the local Mayor won't win reelection because she treated Jethro badly without first checking to see who his friends are.

The Boy Wonder
Barked: Wed Jan 30, '13 2:20pm PST 
Guest, there are very good reasons that programs strongly recommend that you don't allow strangers to pet your dog. A service dog is NOT a pet, and can not be treated as such. I'll say that again.. A service dog is not a pet, they are a working animal with a job. No more than a surgeon needs to be taking cell phone calls while they're operating, it's dangerous for the public to distract a service dog while they're working.

How you handle your own dog is your business (though I strongly recommend that you use a leash because while you can get along without one you shouldn't but that's another issue altogether). But for other handlers allowing people to pet their working service dog can be dangerous. And by implying that other handler's are wrong or incorrect in that they should let people pet their service dog you are in the wrong. And by giving the public the idea that they can and should pet any service dog is Horrible policy and you will get another handler hurt and cause a lot of drama for other handlers when the public takes your attitude as general policy.

My service dog is neither afraid of the public, nor aggressive and wouldn't have any business being in public if he were. But He is not there for other peoples business. He's not a pet, and if he misses an alert or command I could be in serious trouble or dead.
Iris vom- Zauberberg

Service Werewolf
Barked: Wed Jan 30, '13 4:19pm PST 
I permit my SD to be petted on my terms and on command only. In my situation, If she is busy being social with the public, she can't be mitigating my disability at the same time. I need her focus.


Barked: Wed Jan 30, '13 5:15pm PST 
I agree with Happy. I had a hard time at the beginning saying no to people but it made Sarge lose his focus on me by letting people pet him. When that happened I grew a backbone and told people he's working and can't be petted. Now he does great unless he sees small kids because he wants to play with them (working on that). His focus needs to be on me and not getting attention from others. When his vest is on, he's working and even my kids are not allowed to play or pet him at that point. You may think it's ok to let people pet your SD but your making people think it's perfectly alright to walk up to and pet any SD and it's not.

Member Since
Barked: Wed Jan 30, '13 6:47pm PST 
I let my SD be petted under my supervision, and sometimes people sneak in there and pet her without it until I catch them. Usually children, thankfully but even sometimes adults.

I always explain that some service dog handlers don't like their dogs being pet although I don't mind with mind. I make a point of thanking people who ask first.

My service dog just ignores people when she's working and they quickly tire of petting her.

It's not a huge issue. One of the traits of a service dog is that they can remain focused on their work. So whether they're being pet or not shouldn't make a huge difference. It's just one more test of their focus. Whether they're in harness or on leash shouldn't matter either. That's equipment, not the dog. If you have an equipment failure for whatever reason, you're left with a malfunctioning service dog that's of no use to you. I don't see the point of using equipment as crutches for lack of better training. I understand equipment when in the process of training, but not for permanent replacement of training.

I lot of people ignore patches anyways so I don't really see the point. Lord knows how many times I've had to point to the big, bold SERVICE DOG patches when people ask what I'm doing with a dog in the store.
Stormy Puppy- (Found a- home!)

Barked: Wed Jan 30, '13 8:01pm PST 
The problem comes if people end up thinking it is ok to just run up to any dog including a service dog and pet them without permission, or distract them when they are working. Depending on the work that a service dog is doing, a person running up and getting in the way of the next service dog they see because they think it's ok, could be dangerous or harmful to the person who is partnered with that dog. Not because the dog may bite but because they may for example be acting to help guide a person or provide balance and getting in the way of that dog while they are doing their job could cause harm to the person they are working with. Or perhaps the dog being disturbed might end up missing alerting the person to their medical condition (seizure, blood sugar drop, etc) in time, or the dog may be interrupted in the middle of performing a needed task at that time. Yes the dog should be focusing on their work but they are not robots and could still be disturbed or miss something if someone is getting in their way (not to mention that the handler may not be comfortable with a stranger handling their dog, or may be busy or not able to deal with it at the time due to their medical condition).

I don't think allowing people to pet your dog is a problem necessarily if it works for you and for the job your dog does-- but it is not going to be the best idea for all service dogs/handlers/situations. Also if you are letting people run up and pet without asking permission and not educating people who pet your dog on why they should NOT distract a service dog or pet one without permission, then you are doing a disservice to other service dog handlers.

Edited by author Wed Jan 30, '13 8:06pm PST


microscopic mutt
Barked: Wed Jan 30, '13 9:09pm PST 
From the Americans with Disabilities Act, section 36.302(c)(4):

(4) Animal under handler´s control. A service animal shall be under the control of its handler. A service animal shall have a harness, leash, or other tether, unless either the handler is unable because of a disability to use a harness, leash, or other tether, or the use of a harness, leash, or other tether would interfere with the service animal´s safe, effective performance of work or tasks, in which case the service animal must be otherwise under the handler´s control (e.g., voice control, signals, or other effective means).

So unless you can't handle a leash due to your disability, or a leash would interfere with your dog's job, you're not in compliance with the law. If that's the case, good luck to you if you ever get an access denial or end up in court for any similar reason - you'd lose.

Barked: Thu Jan 31, '13 4:44am PST 
The law (the ADA, which is federal law) says service dogs must be on a leash. If you wanted to train your own dog because programs tell people to comply with federal law, well, that seems... odd to me. The law applies to all service dogs, no matter who trains them. It doesn't matter how good your dog is, the law still applies to him.

Most service dogs have good social skills and do not bite. In fact, aggressive dogs that might bite should not be service dogs. All the dogs that I know of that came from programs have good social skills and are never aggressive or threaten to bite.

You can allow people to pet your service dog if you want to. Some people prefer not to because it distracts their dog and they need their dog to focus on his job.
Service Dogs in Training

Service Dog in- Progress
Barked: Thu Jan 31, '13 1:54pm PST 
I don't know which program you could be talking about but it's quite ridiculous of you to assume that all programs are like that. That's like assuming because one brand of cereal had raisins they're all going to have raisins. Almost all accredited programs are going to have social, confident dogs that walk well on a leash. They're not going to send an aggressive dog out with a disabled person.

As for the leashes, they're not there to enslave the dog and punish him/her. They make the situation safer for everyone. It ensures the dog won't go anywhere it shouldn't, that you as the handler have direct custody of your dog, and that people can't easily separate you from your dog.

Petting decreases/breaks the dog's attention on the handler. As mentioned above it is important for the dog to have full attention on its handler so that it may mitigate the person's disability.

It's great that you have the liberty to allow others to freely walk up to your dog but it would be horribly naive to assume that everyone else has that same liberty.

Edited by author Thu Jan 31, '13 1:56pm PST

Crazy Sadie- Lady

Im a SD and- proud of it so- there!!!!
Barked: Thu Jan 31, '13 4:07pm PST 
Sometimes I thought it was silly not to let people pet my service dog. But now I know there are times she should not be petted. Sadie loves people and most people get a long with her she is very good at greeting people and socially good with other dogs. When I first came on here with Dogster
I thought that there were a lot of fuss over it. A lot of people got mad at me cause I just did things different when working on my SD stuff. I still do stuff different but not as much as I was doing it.
There are right and wrong times to allow people to pet your SD. That is my feelings about that now.
I learned cause I have had trouble with allowing people to pet Sadie while I was working with her.
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