What’s the first thing we want to do when we see a dog? Pet it, of course! As discussed in a prior blog, as much as we want to love on all dogs we see, we need to learn to control ourselves and of course, teach our kids to do the same. We can't stress enough how important it is to always (did you read that? ALWAYS) get their human’s consent before any interaction. When it comes to service animals, that rule goes double! In fact, you should really never approach a service animal while they’re on the job.
It’s important to know that service dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and assist people with a wide range of situations. There are dogs who can assist their person in so many ways from detecting the blood sugar levels to helping with mobility and so much more! When you think about it, it’s really amazing that dogs have such incredible, and often lifesaving, abilities; which is all the more reason not to disturb them when they’re working. Service dogs go through rigorous training to do what they do, and a big part of that training is knowing how to ignore distractions like loud noises and crowds. However, the less energy dogs are putting towards ignoring distractions, the more energy they can put into helping their human. Just because they’re trained to ignore you doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to approach them.
But how do you know if a dog is a service dog or a regular dog? While there are no “telltale” signs (service dogs are not required to wear vests and many handlers prefer not to draw attention to their situation), you can look for certain behavioral traits. Service dogs tend to be very calm, no matter what the situation is. They don’t pull on their leashes or sniff around, and they stay very close to their handler. If they are in a restaurant they don’t beg for scraps or try to sneak a piece of food off the table, and they are typically pretty disinterested by fellow dogs when they’re walking around in public. But, let's back up for a moment: should it really matter if you can tell it's a service dog or not? Nope. Why? Because you should always be asking if you can interact with anyone's dog before doing so.
In short: service dogs are some of the best-behaved dogs you’ll ever see, and that’s thanks again to those MONTHS of training they go through! So, let's respect the important jobs they are tasked to do and leave them be. We know many of you already know this important etiquette, so join in and help spread the word!