How do you know that sweet looking dog is a service dog? When working, service dogs of all kinds often wear a vest or other identification so people will be aware of their status. This very often includes puppies being socialized as future service dogs. Though service dogs double as pets for their owners, they are actually working dogs and when in public have a job to do. It’s very important that those of us who love dogs and have a hard time resisting saying hello or petting them do not give into that urge when we see a working dog. Although it may be tempting, there are several reasons why you should not approach a service dog,
- Service dogs are trained to stay attuned to the needs of their human, so petting or playing with them can distract them from their job. Depending on the needs of their owners, service dogs are trained to perform several special tasks tailored specifically to their handlers needs. At Healing Companions, those who can qualify for a service dog must fit the criteria under the Americans with Disabilities Act as “severely limited in the ability to function due to mental illness.” A Psychiatric Service Dog can protect it’s owner in difficult situations that could be overwhelming. Interacting with one could distract them from doing that very important job. There are many types of service dogs but the etiquette remains the same for all.
- When you see or pass a working dog giving both owner and animal space is the best option. Trying to get their attention through noise, gestures, reaching out to touch them, or even making eye contact can ruin their concentration. It is also important to consider the owner’s space: it is best to think before you ask someone about their assistance animal. Though some may take the time to educate you about their dog, others may not want to talk about the dog or why they have it.
- Never attempt to give food or treats to a service dog and be sure to keep small children from doing the same. This can jeopardize both owner and animal.
The takeaway? Be polite whenever you spot a service dog on duty by ensuring that you are not distracting the service dog from performing its tasks. This is very important in protecting the health and wellbeing of both the dog and owner.