As a community of animal lovers, we all know how difficult it can be to resist the urge to cuddle a service dog. Dogs are lovable enough, but there is something extra cute about an official vest and a dog performing a service.
There are some fundamental reasons behind the well-known rule not to pet service dogs as hard as it may be. Don’t worry, it’s not uncommon to not know all the reasons behind this rule, so this article will take you through the essential reasonings to ensure you show respect and act appropriately around service dogs.
Types of Service Dogs
A service dog is defined as any animal trained to work and perform tasks to assist individuals with disabilities. These animals are in the same classification as standard medical equipment and legally can go anywhere with their handlers.
Service dogs perform lifesaving and enabling tasks for many disabilities. Some of the most common service dogs include:
Why Can’t You Pet Service Dogs?
We can clearly see the infinite uses and importance of service dogs to enable and support many to live full and active lives, so why can’t we appreciate them by petting them?
First and foremost, petting a service dog can simply be distracting. Service dogs perform tasks that may result in life and death situations, and distractions can have fatal results.
Even the most well-trained dog can succumb to distract easily by the incorrect action of someone around them. Interacting with a service dog may take their mind off their tasks. Even momentarily lapses in concentration can have profound effects.
It Interferes with Their Senses
Dogs, in general, rely significantly on their sense of smell and service dogs are no exception. Their sense of smell alerts them to their handlers physical and health condition, and changes in this scent will alert them when something is amiss. This particularly applies to medic alert service dogs.
Suppose you touch a service dog while on the job; your touch can leave behind a scent that creates a barrier between them and their human. Your lingering scent can reduce how effective they are at picking up other essential scents.
It’s Disrespectful (and Illegal!)
As a rule, petting another person’s dogs without permission is disrespectful and dangerous. Unsolicited touching of a dog can cause them to become aggressive, anxious or distract them from training or tasks.
You should ask their owners before petting for an ordinary pet, but there is little point in asking to touch a service dog. Services dogs will be wearing vest or patch that indicates they are a service dog and not to touch. Not respecting this boundary is disrespectful and may endanger the owner.
In some states, such as Arizona, it is a prosecutable law to not interfere with service dogs. The consequences range from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Service Dog Etiquette
None of us have intentions to disrupt a service dog while they are working nor disrespect a service dog’s handler. Beyond the no petting rule, there are many other rules and guidelines on behaving around a service dog that you may be unaware of.
Getting a good idea of perfect service dog etiquette will mean you will be respectful and helpful to service dog handlers who are constantly dealing with inappropriate behaviour around their dogs.
Familiarize yourself with these service dog etiquette tips with this what-not-to-do list:
Instead, practice these behaviors:
These rules will ensure you show the deserved respect to both a service dog performing a vital task and the owner that needs their dog. There are plenty of unemployed dogs who want nothing but petting. Direct your loving energy toward them and perhaps visit local shelters to offer companionships to dogs awaiting families.
Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, shutterstock