Something I get asked a lot is "why is it so bad to pet a service dog or talk to a service dog? I just LOVE dogs SO much and it's just a natural instinct- I can't help it!" And the best answer I can come up with is..
While having a service dog is a blessing and allows for more independence, there are also negative aspects to it..
For starters.. Drawing a service dogs attention away from the handler means the Service Dog is unable to do their job properly and this can put the handlers health and life in danger.
Before I go ANY further, YES service dogs are trained to ignore things; HOWEVER if a complete stranger, or even someone you know for that matter, was touching you without consent and was in your face while you tried to do your job would you not be distracted??
These aren't just dogs.. service dogs are VERY expensive, life saving medical equipment and the things they are trained to alert to are very complex, often unseen and can change rapidly. Therefore, things can easily go unnoticed if the dogs full attention is not where it should be.
Even if a service dog is not a medical alert dog, it is still dangerous to distract them. A person with a guide dog could easily walk into an Obstacle or worse.. into the street if their dog is distracted.
A person who has a hearing ear service dog
because they are deaf could not be made aware of an emergency situation or the fact someone is coming up behind them Trying to talk to them if their dog is distracted.
The list could go on and on, but those are just a couple examples.
From my experience and from what I have had friends who are also SD handlers tell me.. It is also extremely frustrating for a handler to be stopped several times to answer questions about their service dog or to be asked if someone can pet their dog(that's IF they even ask before petting)when all they want to do is go about their day and complete their errands like everyone else.
Service dog handlers do not want to come across as rude when you ask them questions. We also understand questions come with having a service dog, but we want people to know there is a strong likelihood that we have already been stopped many times prior to you, that we may not be feeling well(I have had this happen and have almost fainted trying to tell someone NO please don’t pet my dog) and would love for people to keep this in mind when they think about asking them questions, petting or distracting their dog in any way.
It is also important to be mindful and respectful of the handler. If you want to ask questions, it helps to ask the handler NOT the dog.. From what I hear, the response rate is usually 100% better that way.
As I have stated before, while I am often happy to answer questions and share why I need a service dog, not all service dog handlers like to or are comfortable with sharing why they need a service dog. To question them about why they need the dog can not only make them extremely uncomfortable, but is also considered to be rude, no matter how well intentioned you may be.
I hope this is a sufficient answer and a little insight for anyone who has ever asked "why is it so bad to pet a service dog??"
Picture Credit: A friend shared this on Facebook not sure who made it, but whoever they are THANK YOU!