I will say that I personally would not want a random vested dog to run up to me to try to bring me to their handler, mostly because Creed has been attacked by loose vested dogs more than once and my instinctive reaction at this point is to get as much distance between my dog and the loose dog as possible. I’d probably go up to the customer service desk in that case and alert them that there was a loose dog in the store and that it was absent an owner. I wouldn’t automatically think that the dog was tasking, again because we’ve been attacked by dogs loose from their owners enough times that I’d assume it was one of those instead. Going to get help is a legitimate task, it’s just that most of the time loose dogs aren’t… doing that.
Chopping this directly from @doberbutts here because I’ve already reblogged that post and it’s long and messy and I don’t want to have it on my blog again.
I want to add onto it; and I also want to note this isn’t directed at you, Jaz, or any one person. There are a lot of things that bother me about that post, chief among them being a white man lying about a 20yr old woman’s situation to shame her, and the implication that there’s only one rule set for disabled people.
But something else that bothers me is the things that service dogs do or the things that happen to service dogs are invalid because of an unfortunate trend by abled people and abled society to make lives harder for disabled people with their apathy, hatred, and fetishization/exploitation of us and things designed to help us.
In the twitter thread, the white man says something along the lines of “I predict this will cause more people to bother me and my service dog” which, yeah, might happen, but that’s not the handler’s fault. It has nothing to do with them, the burden of the choice to do that falls at the feet of the abled person who actually decided to come up to you and your service dog.
In reading @lumpatronics‘ (the OP’s) responses to that thread, I noted that many people were worried that if they saw a dog trying to get a person to follow them, it would be leading them to people who would then attack or mug them; again, fully a possibility. But, also, again, not that handlers fault (or any handler’s fault; that task is a lot more common than that thread is making people think… it was the first task my mentor taught me about for seizure response). Those people who would mug or attack you are fully capable of making their own decisions which lead to them trying to mug or attack you.
Being wary of vested dogs because of past experiences like Jaz described above is valid, dogs wandering around stores do happen and most of them probably aren’t tasking; but again, that’s not this handler’s fault. People made the choice to bring aggressive vested dogs into public, and people make stupid choices about dropping leashes on untrained dogs.
None of this is the handler’s fault. These situations are mostly the result of abled people either being apathetic in learning about disabled people and their needs, or abled people taking advantage of laws put in place to protect disabled people and disgustingly putting them in danger by violating said laws.
The task is a legal one; “The service animal must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered while in public places unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the person’s disability prevents use of these devices. In that case, the person must use voice, signal, or other effective means to maintain control of the animal.” That is the ADA’s official position. “Other effective means” is the dog tasking. If a person has collapsed and unconscious and their dog is standing over them, barking, the handler is not using voice, signal, or fear to control the dog; they are using the dog’s training. It’s quite the same situation.
You don’t have to follow the dog. If you’re really uncomfortable, or if you think you may be entering a dangerous situation, then don’t. It’s not like training the dog for this work specifically puts a magic forcefield around it that automatically compels you to follow the dog. You should just be aware of the fact that a vested dog obviously and gently trying to get your attention is very possibly trying to get you to follow them to their collapsed and potentially endangered handler.
Raising awareness is important. Not only for that one handler or for any of the other handlers that might use this task, but because it’s (tragically) the only way to help with the apathy and exploitation of disabled people that lead to the above scenarios (the hatred one is a bit more complicated). I think it’s just beyond unfortunate that there are some service dog handlers who would rather blame another disabled person for abled people’s ignorant and selfish behavior, rather than supporting them in raising awareness for our entire community.