Yes, this rant has been written before. But I just wanted to add my voice.
Regardless of whether my dogs are vested or not, they are not public property. Even when they're not covered in 2,349,763,498 patches telling you not to touch or distract them, you still don't get to randomly grope them whenever you feel the urge. If I wanted to bring them out to enrich the lives of random strangers, I would train them as therapy dogs, vest them appropriately to that task, and take them to an appropriate place (hospital, nursing home, etc.). They and I would choose to engage in that kind of activity, if we wanted to, and there would be rules.
In just the past couple days, I have had a grown man squat down in front of my approaching pack of five dogs, arms spread, and try to hug them. (No, as far as I could tell he was not impaired in any way ... except by general stupidity.) I have had children run at the outside dogs to touch them. I've had people sitting at tables reach for the heads of my outside dogs. I've had a woman try to distract my working service dog and service dog in training, simply because she couldn't actually touch them.
How many times do we—service dog handlers, dog walkers, your average dog owners—have to say it? Never pet a dog you don't know without asking the owner/handler first. How do you know the dog is friendly? Not all dogs are, for various reasons. How do you know that dog is okay with you reaching at their head from above them? Many dogs find this threatening. When Jett the Swissie leaps back from an outstretched hand, people ask if he's shy or mean. He's neither—you scared him by threatening him in dog language. If you had asked to pet him, I would have politely told you to scratch him under the chin or rub his chest, and you'd have made a friend for life.
There are blind dogs, old dogs, dogs who have been abused, sick dogs, dogs in pain, dogs with stress-related seizure disorders, shy dogs, dogs who simply prefer not to associate with strangers. It is unfair to force yourself on such dogs, which is exactly what these people are doing when they just swoop in for a pet. Hearing, "It's okay, I'm a dog person," as an excuse makes me want to lash out violently. Maybe this dog isn't a people dog!
And maybe—gasp!—the owner is on her way somewhere and doesn't want to chat with you for fifteen minutes while you manhandle her dog and tell her about how you had a dog just like hers ... only a different color, size, personality, etc.
Even the best trained, best socialized dog may not take kindly to being surprised by contact with a stranger. Do these people enjoy being hugged out of nowhere by complete strangers? I highly doubt it. I trained Juno, and am training Kaline, to at least tolerate being touched anywhere at any time, because of these idiots and because even more shit happens to service dogs than regular dogs. But here's a newsflash: Not everyone trains their dog that way, and they shouldn't have to. They shouldn't have to teach their dog it's okay for humans to pull their tail, or step on their paws, or stick fingers up their nose.
And parents! Keep an eye on your unruly children, and teach them how to meet a dog properly! When my dogs get charged by kids, the parent is inevitably feet away, watching and doing nothing. Oh, how I love parents who tell their children, "Do you want to pet the doggie? You need to ask first." There are just not enough of them.
Kids lead with their faces (sometimes adults do too). Again, dogs can find this very threatening—ask the reporter who was bitten in the face by a dog who'd just saved his owner from drowning. If you invade an on-leash dog's space, he has exactly one option if he feels threatened: FIGHT. And when you invade his space with your face, that's what's going to get bitten. Very simple.
People don't respect dogs' individual space. When owners object, they're often ignored. And when dogs object to that blatant disrespect in limited ways available to them—often using their teeth—who gets blamed? The dog, and the dog's owner. How is this fair?!
Keep your hands off my dogs. All of them. If you want to touch, ask. Maybe I'll let you, maybe I won't. They're my dogs, and it's my decision. Be an adult, and just deal with it.