Ask, Don’t Reach

Service Dog Etiquette 

 

Nothing brightens a college student’s day more than walking into class only to be greeted by the sight of a furry, four-legged friend. It may be tempting to interact with the service dogs, but this takes away from the role they play in their owner’s life. There is proper etiquette that not every dog lover may understand.

Luce Parkyn, a student at the university who is training a young service dog named Arno knows exactly what rules to follow around these dogs. Parkyn explains that a service dog’s main role is to provide support for its owner that traditional medicine cannot supply. These dogs are trained to know what to do when their owner is in need of their assistance.

This training comes in stages, but the main goal throughout all of the dog’s schooling is to teach them how to socialize while still being able to give their attention to their owners. Even though these dogs go through extensive training to earn their vests, they can still get distracted by admirers.

Parkyn tells us that, “A dog’s main position is to service their owner.” When someone is distracting the dog, their attention span is no longer on their owner.

There is basic etiquette that everyone should follow in order to ensure the dog’s ability to aid their owner stays intact. The main rule can drastically affect your interaction with the dog and the owner yet is only three words, “Ask, don’t reach.”

Before going to pet one of these dogs, note that the owner could be in need of assistance at that moment. By not communicating with the owner, their safety and life could be put at risk.

Another guideline to go by is to be aware of the dog’s and the owner’s personal space. By walking too close to one of these dogs, they may not be able to maneuver their owner out to the side when needed.

One more main precedent when in the presence of a service dog is not to give them attention, even if they are giving you their attention. If a service dog gets too friendly, politely tell the owner, so they can address the dog and its behavior. This is especially important with service dogs in training.

The main idea to keep in mind when around service dogs is to make sure they are not distracted from their owners. Everything else is just a sub-rule.

Don’t fear, though. There are many ways in which you can interact with service dogs without imposing on their services.

According the University of Nevada, Reno’s counseling services, the university offers a program called Take 5 on varying days throughout the year. Take 5 offers a variety of services, such as individual consultations, workshops, and stress relief activities in order to battle the everyday stress that college students endure. Delta Gamma, one of the six panhellenic sororities on campus, adopted a philanthropy that revolves around service for the visually impaired, including dogs, schools, and other methods. Reno hosts an annual DogFest every fall. This event raises money and awareness for the training of service dogs while also offering fun attractions.

All of these programs allow the public to beneficially interact with service dogs and their owners in ways that won’t prohibit their duty. The key to interacting with these dogs is knowing when it is appropriate. This is why it is important to communicate with their handlers before acting upon impulse.

It may be tempting upon seeing service dogs on campus to run up and admire them, but their job is to aid their handler. They are not there just to be a cute, fuzzy face for students to pet.

And it is important to remember who’s service these dogs really belong to. Their vests aren’t just an adorable costume, they’re a badge of honor that they worked hard to achieve. You can help honor these dogs by sticking to your space, while letting them stick to theirs.