Rachel, a diabetic's Mom:
i wanted to bring up this topic as reb prepares to begin working with lilly. we have had plenty people petting lilly in public at this point - so that she can meet strangers, etc. however, i know that both abi and val find it a HUGE distraction when people pet mr d or lucy when they are in public. ??is a service dog to be petted or not?? for mr darcy, he LOVES people and loves the attention, but it distracts him. but, it is so hard to tell 'some people' not to pet . . some people who are good friends, etc. think that 'do not pet' refers to everyone except them. it would be good for Reb and Dee to hear from y'all (valerie, abi and amy). Amy, you *do* allow Duke to be petted while in vest, right?
I just had this conversation with the Boyds over the weekend. My opinion is that it is a decision that should be made case by case. Reb and his family are extremely social and not allowing anyone to pet Lilly simply would not work for them. Whichever way a dog team goes on this one, there may well be exceptions. I will work with Reb to identify occasions when it might be better not to allow petting. I believe that training a service dog should be collaborative among all parties: trainer(s), dog handler, and family members (when appropriate). I think that dictating one set of hard and fast rules is counter-productive. I consider a big part of my job to be creating an individualized training program that suits an individual's lifestyle.
Abi, a diabetic & Mr. Darcy, her diabetic alert dog:
I DO let people pet Mr Darcy! It doesn't seem to distract Mr Darcy too much at all. However there are occasions when i ask people NOT to pet him. When Darcy is already in a distracting place, and i am already working with him to re gain his focus, then i do not let people pet him. But in his normal public setting i have NO problem with him being pet because Mr Darcy is pretty good at ignoring it. Each time i let people pet him i try to explain the he is a service dog and that USUALLY you can not pet service dogs. I use it as time to educate someone. I remind them that they should ALWAYS ask first!! I really hate it when someone comes up to him and randomly starts petting him without asking me first......VERY rude! Sometimes i just don't have time to let people pet him. A quick trip into walmart can turn into a 2 hour ordeal!! ;)
As always, Abi, you have the wisdom to know what is right for you and Mr. Darcy. Let's try to make time for you and Reb to talk while we're at Wildrose. The education piece is something I'm all about. As far as asking to pet your dog, I insist on that for MY dogs. No one as the RIGHT to pet another person's dog in public - service dog or not.
Abi: Here is a pic of MR Darcy enjoying some kids petting him at the Blue Angels Air show!
Dee: You and Mr. Darcy are a wonderful ambassadors to the world. Great picture!
Valerie, a diabetic and Lucy, her diabetic alert dog:
This was something that took a while for me to figure out too. I'm going to be a physical therapist and I am already doing clinicals where there are lots of patients that not only want to pet lucy but, also seem to have very positive effects from petting her. So for me this is what worked...
- Family(other then immediate), friends and strangers always needed to ask to pet her even if they have pet her before
- I don't always let the same people pet her everytime-a family from my church is allowed to pet and play with her at my house but when we are at church they have to completly ignore her so that lucy learns not to pull away from me to go to someone else.
- I put lucy in a sit or down and tell them to calmly pet her and only talk to her in a calm voice. For a while I would tell people if she gets up you need to immediately ignore her until i get her to sit again. lucy learned very fast to stay seated.
- I really stress to people that it is soooo much better if they completly ignore her if I say they can't pet her. Lucy takes eye contact, happy voices directed to her as an open invitation to get up and go play with that person.
- I only let a limited number of people pet her in one sitting(usually one or two maximum)
- If lucy is already excited and distracted then I dont let anyone pet her.
I dont know if that helps but its working for us.
Thanks, Valerie. I love that you have figured out what works best for you and your dog. You are using common sense based on your own lifestyle. You will find that Lucy will change fairly dramatically as she matures. The positive training that you do now will become second nature to her and eventually, she will know instinctively what you want from her. She'll also get really good at reading our body language.
I should say that I tell people they cannot pet lucy way more often then I say yes and its especially hard with a puppy. While the size of the british labs is soooo perfect for service dog its a pain because lucy still looks like a 4 month old american lab. Also, people often ask why they can't pet your dog so its helpful if you come up with a sentence or two that explains how you need lilly focused on you and usually people are very understanding.