The annual Black Friday event is only a couple of days away. If you are a service dog handler you may be wondering if you should take your service dog along, leave them at home, or stay home with your service dog and avoid the chaos all-together.
This is a personal choice that you will have to make yourself, but our general advice is not to subject your service dog to the dangers that Black Friday can pose. The safety of our partners should always come first. It’s our job to advocate for them and look out for their well-being.
In many locations, stores will be extremely crowded. Common courtesies go out the window when shoppers are competing with each other for that ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ deal. There are instances of people being injured or even killed in the craziness, so just imagine what could happen to a dog that is even lower to the ground and impossible to see in a crowd.
The Potential Risks
There are first-hand accounts from service dog handlers that have taken the risk. Individuals have had their dog run into with a cart, their dog’s tail trampled or run over and so on. Also, take into consideration the amount of stress and emotions that are experienced on that day and how it would affect your service dog. Carefully assess the impact that the event could have on your own disabilities.
If you live in a location that is a little more low-key during Black Friday, taking your service dog might be a more feasible option. Choosing to do your shopping later in the day is another possibility and can help you avoid the early-hour rush to get the best deals. Stores are usually less crowded in the afternoon.
We advise that you stay vigilant and leave immediately if there is any unsafe behavior going on around you. Consider bringing family and friends with you that can act as a buffer and help keep an eye out for potential dangers (shopping carts, children, agitated individuals, falling merchandise, etc). Make sure your dog is very comfortable working in a crowd. Take breaks when you need them or if you see your dog becoming stressed. Don’t be afraid to vocally (and loudly) warn people that there is a dog present!
Shopping Online Instead
The good news is, if you can’t shop in person, there are many great deals to be had by shopping online. Black Friday is no longer limited to retail locations or even only on Friday. Many stores have now turned Black Friday into a week-long occasion and post their deals online with either free shipping or store pickup. If you decide to stay home there are still plenty of options for saving money.
If you haven’t already, check out our article Black Friday/Small Saturday/Cyber Monday Deals for Service Dogs for some awesome specials and to help support some of our fellow handler entrepreneurs!
Whatever choice you decide is best for you, good luck, stay safe and Happy Holidays!
**Title image – Stan Honda/Today