How to drive a service dog user/trainer BATTY.

This post comes about after talking to a fellow trainer/service dog user about educating the public at large about service dogs and etiquette around them. We shared horror stories. I am still amazed at how idiotic some people can be.

I really don’t mind educating people on all things related to working dogs. I feel that as a trainer, and as a service-dog partner/user, it’s part of my job. There are times, though, when I would just rather not. Maybe it’s a day when I’m not feeling well. Or a day when, frankly, I don’t feel sociable and am trying to run my errands as quickly as I can.

Here are some questions and comments I’d really like people to stop asking (some really isn’t their fault, but GAH, after you hear it a gazillion times, you contemplate putting the info straight onto the dog’s work coat…) along with the answers I either give or wish I could give:

  1. Why does he have a muzzle? Is he mean?
  • It’s a gentle leader. It works like a head-halter you use on horses. Powerstearing for dogs! *
    … But it looks too tight! It’s squishing his eye! Here, let me fix it!
  • Put your hands on my dog and you die, bitch! (actually, I usually answer: No, it’s fine, he’s just pulling in a funny way. Please let him do his work.) *
  1. Is he in training?
  • It’s written, on his cape, “Service Dog In Training”. Hooked on phonics worked for me!*
  1. Can I pet your dog?
  • No, sweetie, he’s working right now.*
    (I don’t mind the question. I mind when people don’t listen to the answer though.)
  1. Does he bite?
  • Actually, yes he does.* :smiley: (OK, so I don’t usually answer that, but I would if I could…)
  1. Sorry, you can’t bring a dog in here.
  • Actually, yes I can. He is a service animal. He is wearing his ID cape, along with two tags which identify him, his school, me and, on the reverse side, you can see a copy of the relevant section of the ADA. *
  1. But you don’t look disabled!
  • … but you don’t look stupid… your IQ isn’t written on your nametag. My disability isn’t easy to see.*
  1. I’ll have to ask my manager. Wait outside.
  • Are you sure you want to do that? I hear the fines are really steep now for refusing access… *
  1. … but we serve food. It’s a health regulation.
  • Look, dumbass, would you turn a guide dog away? I mean, knock yourself the fuck out, cocknugget. It’s your ass that will end up fired, not mine.*
  1. What happened to his tail? Did they cut it off? That’s so mean!
  • He is a natural bobtail, though some dogs of his breed are docked. Mean as though it may be, it’s a godsend, considering the number of numbnuts who walk on my toller’s tail, or run it over with their carts, strollers, close the door on it… you name it. Trust me, Pirate doesn’t miss his tail. I can read his doggy behavior just fine without one.*
  1. Oh! Look, Timmy! A service dog! Isn’t he cuuuuute?
  • That’s just fine, ma’am. I don’t mind if you continue your statement to little Timmy with “do you remember what we do when we see a service dog working? We leave it alone so it can do its’ job…” Please don’t let your spawn RUN UP TO THE DOG squealing, okay? No, it’s not cute. Honest. *

There are days when I will walk into a store with Pirate and hear that kind of conversation going on between a parent and a child. Or, the child will notice the dog and the parent will right away take the opportunity to tell the child about proper behavior around working dogs. This makes me very happy. Sometimes I stop and talk to the child, too.

What gets me is the “Ask the nice lady if you can pet her dog.”… and then the mother who gets all huffy because I won’t let little Mykkynzyee pet my working dog. Oooor the one who lets her child SCREAAAAM and run away. Or the one who will let the child run towards the dog, squealing.

Oh, and to the little Spawn of Motherfucking Cthulhu, you running up behind my working dog and BARKING, then running away, and trying to scare him over and over again IS NOT GOING TO MAKE ME VERY HAPPY. As for Cthulu, don’t shoot me that “how DARE you” look when I tell the spawn to stop harassing my dog, ok? Cunttrumpet.
GAH!. There, I feel better now. Oh the STORIES I could tell… Sometimes, people are just… so… DUMB.

:mad: GAH!

Have you considered investing in a cattle prod? :wink:

Cunttrumpet? BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA! I love it.

Max :smiley:

Many, many times. MANY. Oh, Shiva H. Vishnu, many many times. There are some total idiots that I could really “help” if I were legally allowed to shove a cattle prod “up where the sun don’t shine.” I’m not entirely sure it would cure them of their asshattery, but it would probably be highly therapeutic for me. :smiley:

Weird you should post this b/c I just saw a puppy the other day wearing his little “training cape” and he was quite possibly the cutest thing in the whole world. Of course even without the “I am working!” disclaimers on his cape, I had already heard you are not supposed to pet/distract working dogs so I resisted the urge to do anything other than admire him from afar.

But it occurred to me at the time that I am probably in the minority, and that his poor trainer would probably be in a very bad mood after a trip through Wal-Mart.

Sad to hear I was correct.

But… but…

How are they going to learn how to ignore the idiots who try to pet/tease/otherwise bother them when they’re full time working dogs if they aren’t bothered by those same idiots during training?


Good doggie. Don’t bite. Good boy.

The only time I have ever commented on a working dog was when the person caught me starring, because the dog was absolutely gorgeous (I don’t remember now what breed or what it looked like-I think it was reddish in color), and I just said, “What a beautiful dog!”

That’s within the rules, right? :wink:

“Don’t bug the service dog” is one of those things I learned before I can even remember when I learned it. You know, like “Don’t set yourself on fire.” I guess conditioning works just as well on kids as on animals… I’m just a little startled to learn that not everyone got that conditioning!

Hee. Most of us don’t mind answering questions, especially when the dog is in training, and never are upset when someone comments, “what a pretty dog!”…

If you want to ask a question, especially about a service dog in training, wait for a “good time”. Good times are usually when the dog is resting and the trainer/handler is taking a break. Try to avoid disturbing the person while they’re trying to eat, though. If I had free meal coupons for every time I my food got cold because some shmoe wanted to talk to me about the puppy-in-training or my working dog, I’d be fed for the year!

It’s true that working dogs WILL meet idiots, when they’re on the job, and so training them to put up with that isn’t a bad idea. Again, part of my job IS education… doesn’t mean total idiots drive me bananas. :wink:

I encourage everyone to teach their kids, nieces, nephews, cousins and uncle Bob proper etiquette around working dogs. I understand that while a working dog is super cool because, well, it’s a living, breating critter, a lot of us see them as both that AND as a tool to get around and make life easier. A young lady I trained a dog for once put it this way: If someone were to roll into your local Wally-World with a wheelchair, would you run up to them and ask if you can push it around a while? Would you comment to your child, “Oh! Look, timmy! That Lady has a wheelchair!” If Timmy asks about the wheelchair, then quietly explain what it does for the person. Same applies for a dog. I think what she was trying to get at is that the dogs offer us independence, a shot at being “normal”, as it were, and being singled out (and sometimes stared at) sometimes people a little… well… irritated.

And on these words of wisdom, I return to my kitchen where I currently have a batch of Liver Biscotti cooking for the dogs… Mmm-Mmmm. Nothing quite as tasty as puréed liver (gag), garlic, oregano and flour, baby.

Whenever I see you post on your adventures with service dogs, I think of this thread from long ago. Although the woman in question was a fuckwit of the highest order, it was heartwarming to see her get her just desserts.

Aaah yes, Bildo, that was a glorious moment :smiley: Ah, the memories. The golden, golden memories.

I’ve had a similar moment this year while training Pirate, here in Minnesota… there are people I meet that truly are poster-children for retroactive birthcontrol.

<6th elenfairsense> * I see dumb people…*</6th ES>

I’m also in the “known so long I don’t remember when I didnt” crowd on the “don’t pet the service dog” thing, but one thing I have wondered as I occasionally encounter them at the library where I work and I live in a very hot place: is it alright to offer them water? Or should their owner provide that for them? (The coffee shop at the place has disposable bowls that we can use.)

(A mild though longish hijack.)

When I want to encourage my students to speak in English, I talk about either executions or working dogs. They like to talk about executions to try to offend me. I like to talk about working dogs to try to offend them.

I explain about seeing-eye dogs and how intelligent they are. I explain they go to schools. My students laugh and ask if they have human or dog teachers and how the dogs open their schoolbooks.

They tell me the Saudi system is better. Here we have seeing-eye children. Every blind person I have ever seen here is being led around by an eight-year-old. I would prefer a dog, myself.

Police dogs are another great subject. I explain they police dog is the boss of the policeman. The dog has a car and the policeman has to drive him to work every morning. They don’t like this new idea.

I ask them if they would like to work with dogs, they all say no. I tell them Saudi policemen get double pay to work with them (which is true) and this sparks much debate.

I wonder if I can find some children’s books on working dogs, with pictures. They would like that.

Sampiro - there have been times where I have been out with a working dog without a bowl and have been VERY grateful when someone offered to give the pooch some water… especially in places where you would least expect someone to be able to do that for you (like a library.)

Always ask the person first, of course. Sometimes, just saying “If your dog would like some water, we have some bowls we keep for our friendly furry patrons… just let me know!” works really well. That way the disabled person doesn’t feel like people are trying to do things for him/her, but rather just letting them know something is available if they need it. :slight_smile:

Hee. Actually, there are lots. Drop me a line at mhboyer at gmail dot com and I will send you a list :wink:

We try to teach our trainers and end-users about being sensitive to the whole multicultural song and dance, knowing that dogs are, for some, dirty animals who are to be avoided at all costs.

If you want to add to your arsenal - tell these students about service dogs… Among other things, we train them to do the laundry! Work lights! Get stuff for you out of the fridge! Find your keys when you have lost them! And the list goes on!


I have a question. There are few service dogs where I live and so I’m a bit clueless about walking around them in some instances. The last time I found myself not knowing what to do was in some fast food place with people zipping in every direction. There was no way I knew of to see where he was leading his owner and the dog was having a doozy of a time steering anyway, with all those people. In the end I just pulled back and let them do their thing. Was that the best thing to do? I didn’t want to make them feel like people were afraid of them, but I didn’t want to get in the way either.

Also, I know you’re not supposed to bug the service dog. I know that like I know my own name. But it’s still so hard not to reeeeach out and touch the doggy. Which I’ve never done, but man, it’s hard not to.

Actually, I had no idea that you’re not supposed to touch a working dog. Now I know, thanks for clearing up my ignorance.

I’m trying to decide if this is a Whoosh… laundry? (Seems impossible, but always the chance…)

I used to work at a college where a student (who I’m told is from a super wealthy family) had a miniature horse as a service animal. That animal made me feel like Dr. Strangelove controlling his arm the urge to pet it was so strong.

I just reread Follow My Leader, a rather good children’s book about a young boy and how he got his Guide Dog. The copy I read had some good line drawings, noting in color though.

Er…that would be “nothing in color.” Also, the book has an excellent explanation of how to behave around working dogs and why.