Each community is going to have their own social mores and hot topics that newbies can trip over. This topic is meant to help new members avoid common pitfalls for a smooth introduction to the community.
These are recommendations, not rules. They are meant to be helpful, not to restrict free expression.
1. It is always a good idea to spend a little time wandering around and reading topics to get a feel for a new place. Learn the key players, learn the hot topics to avoid.
2. There are certain hot topics almost certain to get a passionate response. Some are required to be discussed only in the hot topics area. Others are just sore subjects or subjects of great passion. You're welcome to broach these subjects, but be prepared for strong reactions. Let's say you post a topic about why dogs, including service dogs, should not be allowed in restaurants. Obviously this is going to illicit some very strong responses from our community. But there are also other topics that you might not anticipate causing the response that they do. Here are some of them:
b. service dogs for young children
c. inappropriate behavior of a service dog in public
d. discussion against task training
e. discussion of triggering topics including rape, child abuse, child molestation, injury to a person or animal, suicide (we have special procedures in place for handling such topics--please see the rules)
f. asking for a list of tasks for a specific disability
g. posting a list of your tasks
3. Other things that tend to unintentionally get people into trouble:
a. Expecting unconditional approval. While it is the norm with many service dog venues to unilaterally agree with everything a person says, we at SDC tend to separate the person from the deed or opinion. People are always welcome with open arms, whether we agree with them or not. However, if a member disagrees with an act or opinion, they are likely to say so. Example: if your dog is there for emotional support and you claim it is a service dog, you'll be told it isn't one.
b. Several of our members have brain-based disabilities that may effect how they communicate. They may sound brusque, harsh, angry, or blunt. At heart every person here is a good and caring person, regardless of how they communicate. So long as they do not violate the posted community rules, they will not be censured or banned. If you find their posts offensive, simply go to your own profile and add them to your "ignore" list and you won't have to see what they have to say any more. Over time, you may come to recognize the person behind the words and even like them despite their disabilities. It would be wrong to exclude people from the community just because their disability makes their communication awkward.
c. Asking for an opinion. We, as a community, tend to be somewhat blunt and honest. If you ask for an opinion, you will get an honest one. Generally this means constructive criticism. It's fine to ask for opinions. Just be prepared to hear honest ones. It might be uncomfortable to be disagreed with, so you might choose to wet your feet with easier topics first.
4. Generally safe topics (ones that generally result in good natured discussion and joking around):
a. Food, especially: cheese, junk food, vegemite, and comfort food
b. Funny things dogs do when off-duty
c. A description of your dog, including breed(s) and name
d. Asking for information on statutory laws (such as the text of state or federal laws)
e. Asking how to train a certain behavior
How to deal with unpleasant responses:
If you post to a topic and get a response that you feel hurt, confused, or attacked by, we recommended that you stop, take a breath, and re-read what the response was before you reply. Try to ask yourself why you are feeling hurt, confused or attacked by the response. Is it because the person told you the truth, even though it may not be what you want to hear? Is it because the person didnít fully understand what you wrote? Is there a better way to more neutrally ask your question or response? Is it because the person didnít follow typical social norms in communication due to their disability or personal nature and you feel upset, threatened or confused by that? Many of the people as stated above come across as blunt and gruff, many cannot help this style of communication. Rather than write a heated and upset reply which may be met with further blunt and gruff responses which will only heighten your discomfort and upset, it is suggested that you may want to ask some inquisitive questions to find out the real reason why you got the response you received. Rather than assuming the response was an attack (which it mostly likely was not as those are very rare on this board) try to find the heart of the matter and why you are feeling the way you do. Ask some more questions, or maybe it would help you to read some other posts by the person you are feeling upset by to see how they communicate with others in general, or maybe it would help you to read past posts on the board that are similar to the topic you have begun to find out how the community in general feels about such topics and if the response you received was in line with regular board communications or not. If it was not, try to find out why: ask people in a non confrontational and neutral way why they responded in the manner they did. If you are unsure of how your response may come across, contact a moderator (moderator at servicedogcentral dot org), and ask them to review your post before you post it to the general forum. It can also be helpful to write a post then save it in a text file to look at a while later once you have some distance from the upsetting situation before you post it to the forum.