Posts Tagged ‘do not pet’

Dogs are adorable creatures. The fluffy fur and floppy ears seem just made for petting. But, in the case of service dogs, you should save your cuddles for others. There are many justifiable reasons why you shouldn’t pet a service dog. For service dogs, especially ones that are “on the clock” and working, a friendly pat on the head can ultimately distract them from the task at hand. 

Reasons to Not Pet a Service Dog

Unlike pets and therapy dogs, service dogs are always on the job and shouldn’t be addressed by anyone other than their handler. Here are a few reasons why service dogs shouldn’t be petted. 

1. Service Dogs Are Not Pets 

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service animal is a “dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.” These tasks are vital for the well-being and safety of people with disabilities. Service dogs often improve the quality of life, health, safety, and security of the people they work for.

2. Service Dogs Are Doing a Vital Job

People understandably mistake service dogs as very well-trained and well-behaved dogs. Though they are both those things, they’re also so much more. Service dogs are not always easy to verify, but they can perform life-saving functions, like:

Obtain emergency medication or enlist help should a medical emergency occur.  Raise the legs of an unconscious person to increase their blood pressure.  Detect low blood sugar, impending seizures, and determine if a dangerous allergen is present in the environment. 3. Interacting With a Service Dog Can Distract it From its Assigned Tasks

When a surgeon performs surgery, people don’t approach them to shake their hands because it would be a distraction and possibly life-threatening intervention for the patient. The same goes for service dogs. Service dog tasks may not be surgery, but the focus required from the dog is much the same as a surgeon’s. Dogs are notoriously distractible animals, and a high level of discipline is needed during their service.

Despite their copious hours of training, service dogs are still animals. Their instincts can overcome their training at any time, especially if a stranger comes to pet them. And any distraction from their tasks can put their handler at risk.

A service dog on duty is not always easy to identify. Therefore it’s better to refrain from petting service dogs at all times. 4. A Service Dog Could be Working, Even When it Doesn’t Look Like it 

People should never pet a dog without asking the owner first. This rule of thumb applies to all dogs, not just service dogs. For service dogs, however, it’s not always easy to tell if they’re a service dog or not, or even if the service dog is “on the clock.” 

Most service dogs don’t wear a harness, nor are they as easy to spot as visual assistance dogs or guide dogs. Because of this, it’s always safer not to spontaneously pet strange dogs. Always ask their owner first before petting. If a service dog owner refuses to have their dog handled or greeted, there’s no need to be offended. It just means their dog is at work and needs to concentrate. 

5. The Dog May Not be a Service Dog 

Many people believe when a dog wears a vest, it must be a service dog. However, service dogs are not required to wear vests, and, in turn, vests are easy to purchase. Unscrupulous people sometimes buy vests to pose their pet dogs as service dogs. These dogs lack the public access skills and training to interact safely with others, and they may bite or attack! 

Other Factors to Consider Regarding Service Dogs

People are naturally curious about service dogs. Most people are animal lovers and want to learn more about these life-saving dogs. So, it can leave strangers baffled when a service dog handler won’t answer questions or engage in conversation. It may seem rude. However, for the service dog handler, it poses personal questions about their disability that they may not wish—and aren’t required—to disclose. In addition, having their handler speak with strangers may again distract a service dog from their job. 

But Service Dogs Have Playtime, Too

Though service dogs’ work is crucial, their lives aren’t all work and no play. Service dogs receive training to know when they are not required to work. It’s during these times they can run around and play with other dogs. Some service dogs have defined times when they are working, and other work on call. Regardless, service dogs need downtime just like anyone with a job. When it’s time to play, service dogs are just like any other dogs. Some service dogs live with families. These families may even have other dogs at home that aren’t service dogs. Depending on their tasks, service dogs know when they can and cannot function as “regular” dogs. Trainers choose service because they excel at what they do and enjoy doing their work, so true service dogs prefer working rather than sleeping at home. 

Remember, it’s hard to know when a service dog is not “on the clock,” so it’s always best not to engage a service dog at all. If absolutely necessary, a person can address their handler instead. Service dogs need to focus on their tasks, and distractions could lead to dangerous situations for their handlers. So, the next time temptation strikes to pet a service dog, curb that emotion and think of all the reasons you shouldn’t pet a service dog. The service dog handler’s needs are priority over your desire to pet the dog. 

It’s tempting to pet a service dog. After all, these dogs are well-behaved, adorable, and very approachable. What harm could it do? It’s just a pat on their soft furry head and maybe a treat. So, is it okay to pet a service dog? The short answer is “NO.”

It’s never a good idea to pet dogs you aren’t familiar with, as a general rule. You never know what kind of temperament or background a dog could have. Always approach a dog and its owner slowly and ask the owner first if their dog can be pet. 

More importantly, service dogs are different from other dogs. If you see a dog with a vest, harness, or cape, it may be a service dog. They are specially trained to provide a task that a person with a disability cannot accomplish on their own. Focused and disciplined, service dogs are always alert and vigilant, ready to do their jobs. Distraction can be costly and, in some cases, even life-threatening to their handlers. 

Distracting a Service Dog

Service dogs spend months, sometimes years, in training to perform their tasks. All that time invested in the dog is for a fundamental purpose. Although it’s not typically apparent what a service dog’s purpose is, here are some examples of tasks they might perform: 

Autism Assistance

Dogs who assist children with autism keep these kids safe, provide tactile stimulation, or encourage them to interact with their surroundings. These dogs also establish boundaries for autistic children, preventing them from straying away or running. 

Seizure Alert/Response

Service dogs for people who suffer from seizures help detect, prevent, or assist when seizures occur. They may provide pressure on specific body parts, obtain medications, or call for help. These dogs may even alert their owners or others if a seizure is about to occur.

Diabetic Alert

Service dogs trained for people with diabetes can perform many life-saving tasks. They can call 911 in emergencies and detect if a person’s blood sugar is low. Diabetic service dogs can also obtain medication if their owner suffers from hypoglycemia.

Medical Alert

Dogs trained to be medical alert service dogs can detect when physiologic changes occur, such as blood pressure, heart rate, or hormonal differences that can affect a person’s safety. These dogs let their handler know if such changes occur and can call 911 or get assistance if necessary. 

Psychiatric Dogs

Psychiatric service dogs can help obtain medication, prevent self-injury, or remove their handler for situations that can trigger a crisis response. These dogs can also detect the start of anxiety or agitation and alert their handler to initiate positive coping skills. 

Knowing how essential and vital their services are, it’s easy to understand why a service dog shouldn’t be distracted.

The tasks above are a few of the functions that a service dog may have to perform. A service dog, when out in public, is on the job. Just like a pilot or a surgeon shouldn’t be distracted, a service dog must remain focused on the job. Their handler’s life may depend on it. 

Don’t Look a Service Dog in the Eyes

Although it may seem minor, making eye contact with a service dog can also distract them. For dogs, eye contact has different meanings than it does for humans. And because they can’t verbalize their thoughts as humans can, eye contact can be a form of communication. Eye contact with a service dog is like starting a conversation with a bus driver, right in the middle of making a turn. 

Do not approach or interact with a service dog. Any distraction may put the handler’s life in jeopardy. Your Scent Can Affect a Service Dog’s Job

We may not be able to detect the scents on our hands, but dogs do. Our scent can affect a service dog’s task by preventing them from smelling the scent they’re trained to detect. A dog’s highly sensitive sense of smell can pick up all kinds of odors, even our hands’ temporary touch on their fur. Petting a dog who relies on their nose to detect blood sugar levels or hormones can be dangerous for the disabled person that needs the dog to be in top working condition. 

It May Not Be a Service Dog

Despite attempts to curb illegitimate service dogs, there continues to be a number of non-legitimate “service” dogs. You may think that a dog wearing a vest is a well-behaved service dog, but it may turn out that the dog is not well trained. You never want to be in a position where you could get bit or hurt. 

Respecting a Service Dog’s and their Handler’s Space

The handlers of service dogs also deserve their own space and privacy and to keep their disability status to themselves. Asking what kind of disability they have is not only invasive but may be against the law. The American Disabilities Act (ADA) protects service dog owners’ privacy and service dogs’ use. 

Cuteness aside, service dogs are not pets. They’re a vital part of a person’s treatment intervention for their disability. Without their assistance, a person with a disability gets placed in a dangerous situation. Service dogs are cute, but they are professionals and should be treated as such. Give service dogs the space to do their jobs because someone’s well being depends on them.