Service dogs are figurative and sometimes literal life savers for many owners, whether aiding people with blindness and mobility issues or assisting those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Owners and trainers can teach service dogs to help with daily tasks and even diffuse an anxiety attack.
Many people are fond of dogs, but because service animals are most often dogs, thanks to their intelligent and obedient nature, it’s essential to know the best ways to interact with a service dog. Yes, they are often cute and are tempting to play with, but you should not treat a service dog the same as your favorite pet. This article will share six tips to follow, including what things not to do when around a service dog.
6 Tips to Follow When Around A Service Dog
Don’t touch or distract the dog. We know, we know – they’re so stinkin’ cute! But interacting with a service dog while it is working or training can put its owner in danger. It can also make it harder for the dog to focus on the work at hand and, thus, prevent them from performing their duties to the best of their ability. Appreciate their cuteness from afar instead!
Speak to the owner/handler instead of the dog (you know… the one that speaks your language!) The dog and its owner are a team, so it’s best to approach and talk to them instead of the dog, who needs to stay focused to do their work. If you have any questions or concerns, ask the owner or handler. Thankfully, many handlers train service dogs to stay focused on their work until they receive a release command. However, it’s still best to limit their distractions. Also, remember that the owner may not want to engage in conversation. Be respectful.
Keep your dog away from a working dog. If you’re taking your dog on a walk and happen to see or pass a service dog, keep your dog away from the service dog until you’re able to ask its owner if your dog can say hello. Your dog, while not meaning to, could also be a distraction for the service dog who needs to stay present with its owner. It’s best practice to do your best to keep out of a service dog’s way while on duty.
Never offer food or a treat to a service dog. We realize it’s fun to walk around with dog treats. However, many service dogs have a strict diet and feeding schedule, and you don’t want to throw them off. The last thing you want to do is make a service dog sick or unable to get their work done because their owner depends on their help. Instead, send them positivity when you pass; it will still feel good!
Don’t interact with a sleeping service dog. It may seem like a sleeping dog is off duty as we humans probably don’t nap during our work days, but service dogs are known to take cat naps if their owner is resting. However, they’re still on the clock and need to be ready and alert as soon as their owner needs them for assistance. Again, appreciate the dog’s cuteness in their slumber from afar.
A service dog alone may need help. If a service dog approaches you solo without its owner, the owner may need help. The dog may bark or nudge you with its nose, signaling that they need your help. Remember, service dogs aim to help their owner in any way possible. Look for behavior out of the norm and help them if you can. Consider following the dog or calling for help if needed. You may help save a life! Trust your gut.
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If you are someone who may benefit from a service dog or other forms of therapy, Advanced Behavioral Health is here to help. Our team has qualified and talented psychiatrists, therapists, and counselors trained in various therapeutic modalities. These treatments include Animal Assisted Play Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR), Medication Management, Psychiatric Treatment, and more. Click here to read about all of our services. Feel free to contact us at 301-345-1022 or on our website with any questions. No matter what you’re going through, Advanced Behavioral Health offers many treatment options. We look forward to meeting you where you are.