It can be hard to resist the temptation to mingle with a well-behaved and friendly dog. If that dog is wearing a service vest, however, any distracting attempts at socialization can potentially endanger his charge. The relationship between a service dog and his handler is a partnership in which the handler is dependent on his canine partner’s undivided attention. Learn more about the dog and human relationship here.
Dogs On Duty
Service dogs are employed to assist individuals who suffer from physical or mental disabilities. Guide dogs enable the blind to safely navigate through busy streets, shops and other settings. Other service dogs are paired with those who are wheelchair bound or have compromised balance to enhance mobility. Watch this video about a wheelchair-bound dog and owner team teach us an important lesson. Medical alert dogs assist diabetics and epileptics by sensing an impending seizure or blood sugar crisis. Psychiatric service dogs are becoming increasingly common to help returning soldiers cope with post-traumatic stress syndrome. When you observe a dog that is outfitted with a vest-like halter, you are witnessing a canine at work. Even when the dog appears to be relaxing at his handler’s feet on a sidewalk café, he is still on duty and vigilant for any potential threats to his handler’s safety. Service dogs are also utilized by law enforcement and by the Transportation Security Administration to aid in keeping the public safe. As travelers advance through the lanes at airport security checkpoints, dogs that are giving each passing carryon bag an olfactory inspection are focused on their quest to sniff out a potential weapon of terrorism.
Do Not Pet Nor Distract
Any attempt to engage a working service dog can distract him from his duties. This means that you should never approach, pet, talk to or make eye contact with the dog. Even a well-trained dog that has been taught to focus on his tasks at hand can be distracted. It takes only seconds for a disaster to happen, and you would feel badly if the blind man walked into an oncoming vehicle simply because his guide was coaxed into a petting session by your hand. It is the responsibility of every member of the general public to refrain from deviating a service dog’s attention away from his job responsibilities and his handler’s needs.
The best and only acceptable response when you spot a service dog in any situation is to ignore him completely and pretend that he is not there at all. This does not appear rude to the handler; it is proper etiquette. All too often, those with service dogs at their sides are besieged with personal questions and endless queries about their canine partners. Ignoring the fact that a person has one of these canine sidekicks in tow and offering no more than a friendly smile to the individual as you pass by shows respect for him or her as a human being and for his or her furry partner and the job responsibilities that the working service dog provides.
Watch this video about a working service dog: This service dog is my hero too!