“Don’t Pet Me, I’m Helping!” Why You Don’t Pet a Service Dog
You Don’t Pet a Service Dog – I am sure you have heard that at some point in your life. Service dogs are amazing. They help people with disabilities live a normal life, and they make the world more accessible for everyone.
But it’s important to remember that these animals are working when you see them out in public, so please don’t try to pet them! You wouldn’t want someone coming up behind you and touching your hair without asking first–so why would you do that to a service dog?
How does petting a service dog distract them?
When you pet a service dog, it’s like giving the person they’re trying to help an unwanted hug. They are there to be an extension of that person and do what they can’t–not make friends with people who want to stop their hard work for a second!
Petting someone without asking first is rude in any situation, so don’t think that just because dogs have fur instead of skin makes it okay. If you see one out in public while they’re working, please leave them alone.
Service dogs are there to help not be your new best friend. I’m sorry if it sound harsh, but it is true.
Can I pet a service dog if I ask first?
If you see a service dog out and about while they’re working, please leave them alone. If the person with their service animal is trying to pet it themselves, that’s one thing–but if there are people nearby who want to stop what the animal is doing for an instant just so they can get some love from a pup or bunny rabbit then no! That would be like someone coming up behind you in line and tapping your shoulder without asking first. Don’t do this!
Can I pet the service dog if no ones sees me do it?
No! That would be like someone coming up behind you in line and tapping your shoulder without asking first. Don’t do this!”
It’s important to remember that these animals are working when you see them out in public, so please don’t try to pet them! You wouldn’t want someone coming up behind you and touching your hair without asking first–so why would you do that to a service dog?
I have seen people do it to my own dog – sneaking a finger down to rub her nose or even try to talk to her. It is frustrating. SHE knows she is a good dog and a pretty dog and, and, and…
How does petting a service dog distract it?
By petting a service dog, talking to it, or trying to offer it food, you’re detracting it from its ability to give its full attention to keeping its handler safe.
They might be in the middle of performing a command by their handler or even actually getting ready to alert them to a life-threatening condition like low blood sugar.
It can lead the dog to think that they don’t have to be “on duty” when they are wearing their uniforms. Dogs KNOW that they are “working” when they are wearing their vest or harness. As it takes almost 2 years to fully train a service dog, it can really set back a matched pair if the dog no longer understands that fine line between working and not working.
Bonding time with a service dog
When it is off duty? That is playtime. They get a LOT of love and care – and plenty of downtime when they are off duty. The minute we walk into our house, if other people are there, the first thing that happens is the vest comes off and we head out to the backyard. It’s a potty and a play break!
Service Dogs do not require socialization as pets typically do, which is why it becomes critical for them to have quality one-on-one time with either their handler or another trusted person in order to avoid issues such as separation anxiety from being left alone too much, depression from lack of companionship, and feelings of anger at no longer having a job to do.
They also need to learn what triggers them and their human partner’s emotional changes, so that they can anticipate these needs before the handler becomes overwhelmed or starts a fight-or-flight response. This is why it’s important for service animals to be trained in calming techniques as well as basic obedience commands such as “sit,” “stay,” and “down.” It may seem like an easy task, but this training takes time and patience which makes bonding with your animal all the more essential.
It can take almost two years to fully train a service dog – and not all dogs make the cut. They have a very important job to do and if You Don’t Pet a Service Dog, you are helping them do their job.
That being said – what if an unattended service dog approaches you?
This is not their way of saying that they need a break and please pay attention to them. Service dogs KNOW they are “at work” when they have their vest on.
This could be them letting someone know that their handler needs help. If that happens, please offer the animal some space and then follow them. Make sure you have your phone handy if you need to call 911.
It is possible that a blind person had a bad fall, or a diabetic had their book sugar drop too low and is unconscious. Maybe a person had a bad seizure and isn’t responsive. There could be so many different reasons that the dog is trying to get a person to come to help their handler.
In short: Service dogs should never be touched or approached by anyone other than their owner unless they have been invited to do so. It is important not only because it can distract from the animal’s work but also because certain behaviors may actually indicate an emergency situation.
Check out these other great tips for dogs if you liked You Don’t Pet a Service Dog:
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- The Ultimate Guide to the Best Emotional Support Dogs
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