Wednesday, December 21, 2011

YES WE CAN! & NO, WE DON’T: The Service Dog in the Social Setting

“Don’t pet and don’t distract are well known Service Dog rules. –These are certainly a good start but in the social setting Service Dog Etiquette is much more complex. –Consider the following real-life situations:


 “Do I have to wear Reindeer Antlers mom?”  “No, Goodee the Service Dog]. “. What gave you the idea you have to wear Antlers?”
“Well, we were invited to this party and one of the humans said: “It would be cool for us to put Antlers on the dog.”

“No Goodee the humans were being silly.”
My Service Dog Goodee is correct fashion consultants offer to outfit us in various items throughout the year. Clothing is both a required utility and personal choice for the Service Dog team. Stylish and cute items are often overlooked in the interest of safety.


 “Are there really going to be lcats and dogs at the party mom?”
“Well, I don’t know Goodee the Service Dog. I will find out.”
“That’s good mom.  You should find out because we can work with most anything it’s just always nice to know.” “I did hear a human say: “Goodee might need friends.”

“Gosh Goodee, you hear a lot.”
“Yes, mom I am a trained observer. I hear all kinds of things and report them to you so you can stay safe.”

“That’s correct Goodee, you keep me safe no matter what happens.”

In this exchange Goodee is concerned about cats and dogs because of both her natural dog instincts and her training to protect me. 
We like to enjoy ourselves when we go out but Team Goodee’s first concern must be our own safety. We often adjust for other animals and humans.


Are you inviting a Service Dog team to your social gathering?  it’s a good idea to give them a general situation sketch. Having a Service Dog often requires you to decide if you want to put yourself in the situation or you just need to “pass.”  For example, some Service Dog Teams may decide it’s ok to take in a zoo while others want to avoid the animals. —It depends upon the Service Dog and their job.


We entered a restaurant with a party of nine. Goodee quickly went to her appointed place under the table. Despite the smell of food Goodee did not beg, instead she went fast asleep. However, her slumber was short lived. She detected migraine pain and began working to get my attention. It is her job to alert me and see that I get to my medication and safety. “Oh great,” I thought “all these people and I have a migraine.”

“Think, think, oh gosh not now.” My scattered thoughts were interrupted as the lady next to me noticed Goodee.  “Oh pretty doggie, may I pet, please oh now could I?” The lady continued to beg.  “Sorry not now, she is working,” I indicate weakly as the migraine attack hits me head-on.

“Oh really, the dog is working?” the lady asks. “Yes,” I indicated in hopes that this would satisfy the inquiry. “Oh really she is working well… The stranger who thought we were fast friends continued a narrative on the definition of work. I did my best to tune out as I was still trying to find a way to discreetly medicate my pain.

“This couldn’t possibly get worse,” I thought to myself. Then, Goodee continues to escalate concern for my migraine. She knows if I lay in cold darkness I get better so she often urges me to seek out ideal locations.

“Oh the doggie touched me!” the table neighbor announces. “Oh see, she is smelling my dog,” the lady continues. “Leave it,” I advised Goodee. She quickly complied. “Oh it’s not ok for her to smell me?” the lady asked. --- “Education, education,” I thought to myself.
 “The lady doesn’t know you have a migraine, just reply to her,” I told myself.”

 “No, it’s not ok for a Service Dog to sniff while they are working,” I advised.  “Oh the dog is REALLY working”  “OMG! Are we continuing this circle logic?”” This is a nightmare,” I thought to myself.
“The Service Dog helps me with balance,” I continued  (thinking detail might assist in the overall understanding.

 “Oh you are not balanced right now?”” “But, you are sitting down” the inquirer continued.
 Finally Team Goodee excused ourselves for the evening.  In this instance retreat was our best option.


A large group of friends recently invited us to a movie.  Upon arrival, one friend said in concern “Oh will the dog be able to get into the movie?””  I didn’t call ahead.”
“Of course she can it’s not rated R”.  I joked, quickly explaining the law. . This place of public access indeed is required to admit a Service Dog.

I was happy to provide access education. Most people just don’t know the law. Then another obstacle came into view. Old, broken, high curbs lay ahead. “Find the ramp,” I advised Goodee. --- Surely, oh please…  Goodee looked in dismay. There was in fact no ramp to be found.
 Team Goodee realized we would have to go in search of the handicap access. We were prepared to do so. We finally located the ramp and began backing up. 

Suddenly, one of our friends yells, “Hey DD what’s wrong with your dog? I thought you said she was trained!”   Laughter breaks out from the group and strangers begin an on-looker circus.

“She IS trained!” I thought to myself. I used all my restraint I realized the person yelling simply does not understand Service Dogs or how they work.
In this instance Goodee was doing her best with what she had. She used her skill to get me to handicap access. . We have lot of ways to take care of ourselves. We did not need sideline comment or yelling.


At first it was a source of frustration but I soon learned to just laugh and move on. It often happens in social settings that we are asked to provide the entertainment. Here are some examples:
“My daughter isn’t feeling well, could she just pet the doggie”
“Could the doggie call my little boy? It might help him sleep”
“Can the doggie help with clean up?”
“Can your dog find my keys?”


Many times people feel stuck for conversation when they see a Service Dog.  Stories tend to roll out. I often hear of a childhood dog or a friend of a friend who has a Service Dog. Dog stories are interesting but there’s so much more to me.  If you are searching for an “ice breaker” consider weather or education---Anything but “The Dog.”
For the Service Dog Team familiar settings are often worse than strange ones. You don’t want to offend your family, friend, or co-worker so you do your best to adjust. The end of the day often finds you and the Service Dog exhausted from a series of encounters.


The Service Dog is a professional tool meant to be in trained hands.  The Service Dog Handler must be the one to decide when and how to work. While most Service Dog Teams enjoy social settings, the Service Dog is not a “social creature. “Distract the Doggie,” is not a party game. In fact, distraction of any kind can be dangerous.
“Isn’t the dog trained? They just shouldn’t be so delicate!” You may think. ---Well, you are a trained human. You are trained to do work in many settings. Do you ever find yourself distracted by a text, phone call, or Facebook? Probably so! It’s like that for the Service Dog they are trained and have a certain tolerance for distraction but the best of dogs can have a bad day.
Even in the social situation, please remember:

Not Now We Are Working!
GoodeeWorks Productions

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