If you’re anything like us, you can find it quite exciting to see a disabled person being aided by a specially-trained dog. But don’t rush straight over. This partnership will be going about their day, just like you. Please do not call to, click at, whistle, stroke or otherwise touch the dog or its lead. It is impossible to tell how many medical conditions the handler has, and you don’t know what the dog may need to be watching them for. Assistance Dogs are highly trained, but they are not robots, and they may still become distracted.
Please do not feed the dog. It is likely to be on special food fed at very particular times, so that the dog will, in turn, only go to the toilet within a certain time frame. Obviously, if you give the dog something, you disrupt this.
If the dog turns out to be allergic to something you’ve given it, you have then stolen the handler’s independence while the dog recovers from necessary treatment.
Remember that the partnership have gone through training to work together without outside help. The purpose of the Assistance Dog is to allow the handler to get about independently. If you do think that your help may be needed, offer first. Certainly do not go grabbing any dogs.
Can I stroke an Assistance Dog or ask the owner about it?
You must always ask the handler before touching their dog, and you must accept their answer. Please don’t be one of those people who think that blind people always have absolutely no vision at all; they probably will see you if you try to sneak a pat onto their dog.
Many Assistance Dogs handlers will be happy to talk about the dog with you if you ask nicely. Bear in mind, though, that you are probably not the first person to have approached them on a given day.
How do disabled people pick up dog poo?
With a poo bag, usually.
Devices such as the Poopsta can be used by people who find bending or reaching difficult. Their dog is also likely to be fed to a schedule which means they only go to the toilet at home, and then the handler’s personal assistant can help if necessary.
For handlers with impaired vision, the dog may likewise be fed to only toilet at home, or will seek out a particular surface so that it is easier for the handler to locate and clean up the waste.
Handlers with disabilities other than those affecting movement or sight, will usually just crouch down with a poo bag.
The dog handler I saw didn’t look disabled?
They wouldn’t have a Recognised Assistance Dog if they didn’t have a disability. Not all disabilities are physically obvious to outsiders. There’s also a chance that you may have seen a dog with a trainer, of course.