Interactions between the Public and Assistance Dog Handlers and Trainers
School of Health Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand
School of Social Work, Massey University, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Benjamin Hart
Received: 8 November 2021
Revised: 21 November 2021
Accepted: 22 November 2021
Published: 24 November 2021
The number of disability assistance dogs in Aotearoa New Zealand (NZ) is small but slowly growing; therefore, encountering an assistance dog in a public place remains a novel experience for most people. Little is known about the experiences of NZ handlers and trainers with the public. In this research, there were both benefits and challenges for participants when interacting with the public. Handlers benefited from increased social engagement but they experienced the challenges of denied access to businesses, cafés, restaurants, shops, and public transport; invasive personal questions; unwanted interactions; and interference with the dog. These challenges were most difficult to manage. These findings highlighted the complexity of such interactions and the need to inform the public about the dog/handler or dog/trainer teams’ legal right of access to public places and etiquette on how to interact with these teams.