Let's talk about why you can't distract service dogs. As handlers, when we tell people not to pet, coo at, or otherwise distract our dogs, many of us get this question: "Well, why not?" I've found that a lot of handlers, including myself, will jump to the explanation of medical alert dogs missing an alert, after which their handler goes into an episode without being able to prepare themselves. What picture is this painting for the uneducated public, however? That only medical alert dogs can't be distracted? Unfortunately, yes. If the public only hears this one reason over and over again, they'll start to assume that medical alert dogs are the only service dogs that need to be ignored. When they see something like "psychiatric response" or "mobility service dog", they'll think back to what we have said and decide to distract these dogs anyway. This may not always be the case, but it's become all too common for me to see. I've heard people in public tell me this before, saying that they leave medical alert dogs alone but others are fine to distract.
So what can we say instead that will help the general public understand the importance of ALL kinds of service animals? "Distracting a service dog keeps it from performing tasks that their handler needs to live a normal life." This can apply to any task, not just medical alerts. A dog could be distracted from performing many tasks, such as retrievals, pressure therapy, behavior interruptions, pressing buttons, forward momentum, guiding, and more. Of course you can provide examples of tasks or continue using the language you have been, but this is what I recommend to make sure that the public understands the importance of leaving ALL service animals alone. Perhaps if this change in language is made, the public will become more understanding of our animals. - 2 hours ago