There are many reasons a person may wish to avoid unnecessary human contact. These range from difficulties communicating with people due to a disability to just being too tired to talk to people. Having a service dog will, without fail, dramatically increase interactions with strangers. These techniques can be used to avoid and deflect interactions.
Ways to Avoid Unnecessary Contact
Move Quickly: If you mosey around the store people will be more likely to approach you for several reasons. Moving quickly indicates that you may be in a hurry so people will be less likely to stop you. Moving quickly will also get you out of the store faster and therefore reduce the amount of time that a person has to approach you. Finally, moving quickly make it harder for strangers to catch up to you to bother you.
Look Confident: Walking with your head up and shoulders back suggests that you are confident and your actions are purposeful. If you move with intention people are less likely to interrupt you with questions.
Avoid Eye Contact: contact invites conversation. When avoiding eye contact do not look at the ground as this looks shy or sneaky. Look at a point on the back wall with your head up.
Wear Sunglasses: Sunglasses hide where your eyes are looking and suggest that you are unapproachable. It works great for the Secret Service. Note: Some people might think you are blind, especially if you use a service dog and wear dark glasses.
Use Shopping Carts: Place a shopping basket or cart between yourself and the aisle to block people from getting too close to you. You can also use appropriate nearby landscape (everything from poles to park benches) to position yourself in such a way that people cannot get too close.
Use a Purse: A bulky purse or bag can be inserted between you and another person to maintain personal space. Also good for blocking people from messing with your dog or even blocking loose dogs from messing with your dog. It doesn't have to be heavy or full. You can stuff it with empty plastic bags to make it appear full and be bigger.
Blocking Tasks: Service dogs can be trained in blocking tasks where you position your dog between strangers and yourself in the manner described above for shopping carts and purses. As this will make it more difficult to stop strangers from petting the dog this only works for a very select group of people who do not mind if people pet their dog. You must also be careful where you position the dog so that it does not get stepped on on accident.
Read: When sitting in a cafe, subway, airplane, or anywhere else you can read a book, newspaper, or magazine to both occupy your time and to avoid questions. Not only are people less likely to interrupt you while you are reading but you can also pretend that you cannot hear people who try to get your attention verbally. Note: Any technique that allows you to ignore people trying to get your attention verbally may increase likelihood of a persistent person touching you to get your attention.
Play with Your Phone: If you have a smartphone install a game on it. Play that game idly while you sit places to much the same effect as reading. The benefit is that you do not have to carry around a book. The drawback is that it both requires a smartphone and burns up the batteries on that phone.
Listen to Your iPod: You can listen to your iPod or other MP3 player while walking, sitting, shopping, or doing other tasks. People will be less likely to approach you and if they try to verbally get your attention you can ignore them. An extra benefit is that many find music calming in stressful situations. The drawback is that if the music is too loud people may be able to sneak up behind you.
Put on Headphones Without Music: If you do not have an iPod or if you decide you do not want the extra noise of music playing you can get many of the benefits of listening to your iPod by just wearing headphones that are not even plugged into anything. People will avoid you and you can always pretend that you are listening to music so loudly that you cannot hear people when they speak to you.
Shop at Off Hours: Some stores are open all night. At 2 am there will be very few shoppers and most of the people you encounter will be employees busy restocking the shelves. They'll stop to answer questions if you can't find something and that extra help can speed up shopping. In addition, wait time at checkout are shorter.
Have a Shopping List: Don't just go and browse. Browsing makes you approachable and takes longer than shopping from a list.
Organize Your Shopping List: Some grocery stores have shopping apps that will help you organize your shopping by aisle. When you're better prepared and have a plan, you shop faster and get out faster.
Frequent The Same Stores: This allows you to learn where everything is, so you can get in, find what you need quickly and get out.
Check for “Secret” Checkout Lines: In large stores like Walmart, sometimes there is a checkout over in gardening or liquor that has no waiting.
Check Aisles for People: If you walked down the middle aisle before you go down any side aisles you can look down each of them. If an aisle is empty, go in and get what you need from there. If there's people in there, keep walking until you get to the next empty one. You may have to pass by it several times, but if it means avoiding a group of unruly teenagers then it may be worth it.
Read a Label: If you look intently at brands or labels people or groups will often pass by you while you wait.
Answer Your Phone: If you need to escape from a conversation that you cannot otherwise avoid, pretend that your felt your phone vibrate in your pocket and answer it. Say something into the phone like “Hi! I know! I’m on my way!” While you walk away.
Have an Information Card: Create and carry business cards that have information about service dogs on them. Hand the person the card and, while they look at it, walk away.
Prepare Answers To Common Questions: Practice them. While answering, continue walking. Use a tone of finality with all your responses. In general, use short simple responses. The following examples may benefit you:
Q: “Can I ask you a question”?
A:“I’m sorry, I have to get going”
Q: “Would you like me to give you a hand?”
A: “I don’t need any help, but thanks!”
Q: “You’re so lucky!”
A: "Most people think that, but it can be really difficult and not that fun to have a dog with you everywhere you go."
Q: “Are you training him?”
A: “No, he’s fully trained.”
Q: “It must be hard to give them up!”
Q: “Tell me more about your disability”
A: "I don't feel comfortable discussing that."
Q: “What does your dog do?”
A: "He helps me with my disability."
Note: This response only applies to nosey strangers, not gatekeepers.
Q: “What kind of dog is that?”
A: “She’s a Golden Retriever.”