Salute to America’s VetDogs and Tips on Etiquette for Encounters with Service and Assistance Dogs

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America's VetDogs

I’d like to start featuring the many pawsome animal-related causes and nonprofit organizations out there. Since Daisy’s papa is an Army veteran, I thought it would be fitting to begin by shining the spotlight on America’s VetDogs. In addition to learning about their wonderful programs, I also found some very important information we all should know, about the proper way for humans to behave when encountering an assistance dog.

America’s VetDogs uses guide dogs, service dogs, and state-of-the-art technology to help disabled veterans live better lives. Not only does a VetDog provide assistance with daily activities, the dog provides the motivation to conquer new challenges: people focus on the dog, not the disability. And with a VetDog by his or her side, a veteran is never alone!

VetDogs trains and provides assistance dogs for veterans who are blind or visually impaired and those with disabilities other than blindness. Their organization trains physical, occupational, and emotional therapy dogs to work with wounded soldiers and active duty personnel. For a dog to become a VetDog, it must meet strict health, safety, and training standards. Each dog is also trained and matched for the specific needs of the individual veteran being paired with the dog. Read more about VetDog’s Programs and how you can support them.


Etiquette and Assistance Dogs

Assistance dogs perform vital tasks for their human partner. They are guide dogs for people who are blind or visually impaired and service dogs for those with disabilities other than blindness. They provide independence, enhanced mobility, and companionship.

These dogs are specially bred and trained for these important jobs. There are several guidelines people must follow when in the presence of a guide or service dog to allow for the safety of the dog and its handler. Disregarding these guidelines can distract the dog, which can create a dangerous situation for the team.

  • Don’t touch, talk, feed or otherwise distract the dog while he is wearing his harness or service vest.
  • Do allow the dog to concentrate and perform for the safety of his handler. 
  • Don’t treat the dog as a pet.
  • Do give it the respect of a working dog. 
  • Don’t give the dog commands.
  • Do allow the handler to do so. 
  • Don’t try to take control in situations unfamiliar to the dog or handler.
  • Do assist the handler upon her request. 
  • Don’t walk on the dog’s left side as it may become distracted or confused.
  • Do walk on the handler’s right side. For someone who is blind, you should be several paces behind. 
  • Don’t attempt to grab or steer the person while his guide dog is guiding him or attempt to hold the dog’s harness.
  • Do ask if the handler needs your assistance and, if so, offer your left arm. 
  • Don’t give the dog people food.
  • Do respect the handler’s wishes. 
  • Don’t tease or abuse the dog.
  • Do allow it to rest undisturbed. 
  • Don’t allow pets to challenge or intimidate an assistance dog.
  • Do allow them to meet on neutral ground when all parties can be carefully supervised. 
  • Don’t allow the dog on your furniture or in areas of the home where the handler doesn’t want it to go.
  • Do ask the handler to correct any misbehavior or trespassing. 
  • Don’t let the dog out of the house unsupervised. It is a very valuable animal!
  • Don’t pat the dog on the head.
  • Do stroke the dog on the shoulder area but only with its handler’s approval.

For more Resources and Information regarding Assistance Dogs, Access Laws, and Materials for Students and Teachers, Visit VetDogs here.