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How do you handle curious strangers in public?

The Service and Therapy Dog forum is for all service and therapy dogs regardless of whether or not their status is legally defined by federal or state law, how they are trained, or whether or not they are "certified." Posts questioning or disputing a person's need for a service or therapy dog, the validity of a person's service or therapy dog, or the dog's ability to do the work of a service or therapy dog are not permitted in this forum. Please keep discussions fun, friendly, and helpful at all times.

  
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Jerry

Super Jerry the- Diabetic Alert- Dog
 
 
Barked: Sat Jan 26, '13 7:38pm PST 
Hello all! I've had my medical alert SD for about a year now and am still trying to figure out a polite phrase or way to not have to explain the how's and why's of Jerry's job to every person that see's fit to ask when we're out and about. I want to be a responsible SD handler and educate the public, but at the same time, sometimes I just want to get a gallon of milk from the grocery store! I don't always have time or the energy to stand there and explain the difference between a therapy vs service dog is, why they can't touch him, etc.

I feel that most people are genuinely curious and thankfully no one has been rude, but it does get frustrating. Any suggestions about polite ways to handle this would be appreciated!dog:
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Sarge

Teddybear
 
 
Barked: Sat Jan 26, '13 9:15pm PST 
Hi Jerry. I completely understand what your going through. I have the same problem whenever I'm out with Sarge. I have people constantly stopping me to ask what kind of dog Sarge is and what does he do. Not to mention we usually always get any where from1 to 4 people asking to take his picture before we leave the store. I've had people running after me in the parking lots or stores to stop me and ask about him. I honestly try to avoid eye contact with people. I've had people interrupting me while I was on my phone and they clearly see me talking on my phone. I just bought some new patches for his vest hoping it will stop some people. It says " Stop Do Not Pet Do Not Distract. He has a patch that said Working dog Do not Pet but a lot of people don't even pay attention to it. I honestly hate when people ask me what kind of service dog is he. Most of the time I just reply that he's for me. Some of them persistent and keep at it and I tell them one of his tasks is to help me by bringing me meds and stuff and after that they usually drop it. I did have one guy continue on to ask me what meds I was taking which I told them that is way too personal of a question which he didn't seem to understand why. I don't like telling people he's a psychiatric service dog because I don't feel they need to know anything other then he is a service dog and he's working right now. It feels like I'm giving out my medical condition if I was to say that and I don't like it. I usually try to answer their questions politely and quickly try to turn away to finish my shopping. I hate when people try calling him as well. The good thing is Sarge just sits there and looks at them. I always keep Sarge on a very short leash so if need be I can do body blocks or I place him in a way so people can't just reach for him without me seeing or preventing it. I don't want to try and seem rude but I usually try to get in the stores and get out because of my anxiety around crowds and there are a lot of times I'm in too much pain. Over all I just try to be polite and let them know Sarge is working and can't be petted and then try to move on with my shopping.
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Happy

The Boy Wonder
 
 
Barked: Sun Jan 27, '13 12:03am PST 
I generally carry the cards that Please Don't Pet Me sells, I'm out and I don't know if they have any in stock right now but they're a good start to lead people to education. If not you can always make up your own cards with a few basic questions/answers as well as a link to an appropriate website.

My standard reply when people get too pushy about my disability or I"m just not in the mood to talk about it (it is your right to not talk about your medical records with complete strangers) is "While I appreciate your interest in service dogs in general and my dog in particular I do not disclose my medical information to strangers." that usually is enough to get them to leave me alone but not always.

Yes most people are just curious and don't realize that they are asking about your disability. There is something about the dog that makes people ask questions they would rarely ask of someone in a wheelchair or using a cane.

I'm glad that you're good natured about it, it does take time to learn how to deal with the curious public though.

Jeanene and Happy
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Isaac

1278829
 
 
Barked: Sun Jan 27, '13 9:57am PST 
I usually just say something really vague like he helps me with some medical problems.
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Iris vom- Zauberberg

Service Werewolf
 
 
Barked: Sun Jan 27, '13 2:00pm PST 
It depends on whether I am well enough to stop and answer questions. When I'm in a hurry, or not well enough to get into a long conversation, I smile and reply that my SD is a medical response dog who helps me when I become ill, and keep on walking.

If I am well enough and have time to answer questions, I'll answer depending on the vibe I'm getting from the person asking. Sometimes, I disclose my disability and exactly how Iris helps me.

I find body language to be my best tool in managing the public. If I am obviously occupied, people tend not to bother me with questions. If I make lots of eye contact, I get more questions.

In any case, I make sure to be friendly because I'm one of those handlers who feels that I am also acting as an ambassador for other teams and want to set a good impression of SD teams for future interactions these people might have. Who knows? Next time, they might be the ones sticking up for one of us during an access challenge.
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Jerry

Super Jerry the- Diabetic Alert- Dog
 
 
Barked: Sun Jan 27, '13 3:15pm PST 
Thank you so much guys! I took a look at that Please Don't Pet Me website and it looks really interesting. I've been thinking of making up business cards and typing a quick FAQ thing up, but it would be great to find a ready made one.

I really do try to be an ambassador as well, and I want Jerry and I both to be a good example of a SD team. I don't live in a large city and I meet a lot of people in my job, so snapping at someone or saying something too sassy is kind of out of the question (as good as it would feel sometimes!!!).

It's nice to know that there are others out there who feel just as annoyed about this issue!laugh out loud
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Mali

Mali Woo
 
 
Barked: Fri Feb 1, '13 11:56am PST 
For me it is a different answer for different questions for different days. All depending on how I am feeling that day. Some days I am just feeling terrible and need to be left alone... I don’t want to be out and I am only there because I have to be. Other days It would be lovely to talk and explain everything.

Most recently someone tried to pet Mali and I blocked and asked them, “Do you go up to people in a wheelchair and pet their wheelchair?” The man looked at me with his mouth open and shook his head. I told him, “Service dogs are like wheelchairs, durable medical equipment.” And then I walked away. It was not one of my better days.

Other days I have been known to give great information but I never let anyone pet her. I always explain even on my good days about distracting a dog from their work but I try to do it with more tact.
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Polly

Lolly girl
 
 
Barked: Fri Feb 1, '13 12:55pm PST 
On the days I'm not up to having a long conversation I just keep walking, smile and say she's a mobility service dog and then I break eye contact. It seems to work so far. I once had a women ask me what was wrong with me and I told her I didn't discuss my medical history with strangers, she apologized and left...but she came up to me two more times making excuses as to why she asked me laugh out loud she just could not move on and leave me alone to weird/funny confused smile
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Polly

Lolly girl
 
 
Barked: Fri Feb 1, '13 12:58pm PST 
I sometimes wonder if Standard Poodles and Doodles get bothered more, then say a golden retriever, lab or a shepherd....anyone? dog
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Crazy Sadie- Lady

Im a SD and- proud of it so- there!!!!
 
 
Barked: Fri Feb 1, '13 2:12pm PST 
Most of the time I tryed to be polite with them best I can Since it is hard to really deal with people when I am in a dissocaitions situation. Sometimes it is cause I just am over welmed or over tyered.
So I just try to be polite with them either telling them sorry I am not feeling well or some what tell them what they want to know about Sadie and what she dose. I am a believer if we can we should answer any of the questions that is asked since it helps all of us. I don't mean all of us should do this just those who can or feeling well enough to do so. As I said I don't always feel like educating people. Sadie is a very loving and friendly dog and I have had many complaments on her attractiveness. So educating when I can makes me feel good knowing I am helping others, but I am also very fast at telling them not all people who have SDs are willing or able to do this too. I pick and choose when I allow people to pet Sadie or answer questions about her. It is hard sometimes to educate people about somethings where Sadie and other owner trained dogs are concered since most people still feel dogs don't belong in some places.
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