We don’t know about you, but any time we see a cute, cuddly four-legged friend come our way, we will practically throw ourselves over a row of chairs or a crowd of people just so that we can give the little guy a belly rub.
If so, then we’re guessing you often suffer from two very common conundrums: 1) sometimes the owner doesn’t want you to pet the dog, and you are left feeling disappointed, unfulfilled, and ready to track down the nearest friendly pup you can find or 2) the approaching dog is a service dog who is donning a jacket saying “DO NOT PET. DOG ON DUTY”.
Yep, things can get pretty confusing if you find yourself in the second scenario. Of course, you don’t want to break the working dog’s concentration, but what if it’s a special circumstance? For instance, what if the service dog approaches you without its owner in tow?
The situation has, personally, never happened to us, but it’s one that we are happy that we know more about now so that we can be better aware in the future. As a matter of fact, the canine knowledge is so important, understanding it could just end up saving someone’s life!
What to do when an unattended service dog approaches you
First things first, let’s take a closer look at what service dogs are actually trained to do…
Contrary to popular belief, service animals aren’t just regular pets that have crafty owners who have filled out the “right” paperwork; they are actually animals who have a very important job to do.
According to Service Dog Certifications, these canines offer a wide range of support to their owners, from simple tasks like retrieving mail or carrying medicine, to vocalizing a special bark that lets 911 operators know that something is wrong. Generally speaking, the owners who can most benefit from service dogs are folks who suffer from psychiatric illness, such as PTSD, persons who are hearing and/or visually impaired, those who have autism diagnoses, and many more.
Most often, service dogs will only break from their owners in public when something is going very wrong. In a viral Facebook post, reported by news station Fox26, we hear about a common scenario:
A service dog might leave its master when he or she is suffering from a dangerous medical event, like a seizure. When this occurs, the dog will find the nearest person and use body language to communicate that they want the human to follow them. From there, the human will see that the dog’s owner is in need of help, and they can call 911.
Of course, this situation would occur in a perfect world where all people know exactly what to do when a service dog approaches them. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the number one thing NOT to do is reach out and start cuddling the dog, as the interaction could end up either confusing or agitating them. This might get them off-track so that their owner wouldn’t get the help they need.
Makes sense, right?
To learn even more about how you can do your part to help the owners of service dogs AND to get a bunch of bonus safety tips to protect you and your family, be sure to watch the video below.
We’d love for you to share your experience with service dogs! Has this situation ever happened to you? If so, what did you do? Do you own a service dog?