I have had the honour of training several dogs as support dogs for people confined to wheel chairs or who need their dogs to help them for other reasons. As part of the dogs’ socialization training, we often frequent markets, coffee shops and busy pedestrian areas.
To be honest, I’ve been shocked by the lack of understanding toward those people by some members of the public.
Below are some facts to think about:
- When you see someone with a support dog approaching, please step aside to allow enough room for both dog and owner to pass comfortably.
- If a person has a support dog by their side, please don’t pat their dog, their dog is at work.
- Please don’t allow your dog to approach a support dog, particularly if it is obviously in training. These dogs have a very difficult job. They are looking after their owners and have to concentrate and remain non-reactive to the environment for long periods of time. Don’t make their jobs even harder.
- When speaking to a person in a wheelchair, be aware of their personal space. Also be aware that their eye level is at your waist – so step back. It is for this reason that I am now teaching support dogs to ‘block’. On this command, they will sit between their owner and other people to maintain space.
- Don’t allow your dog to disturb a support dog if it is resting. Respect this dogs space and ‘down time’.
Thank you in anticipation.