Dog ownership is going up all over the world. 33% of all households around the world have pets. Dogs are by far the most popular pet. Their lovable nature, loyalty, and resourcefulness make dogs great pets. Dogs are social and get along well with others, whether humans or animals.
They are highly intelligent and easy to train. These qualities make them perfect for carrying out tasks alongside humans, like being trained to detect dangerous or illicit substances.
Dogs are utilized in various professions, like law enforcement or the military. Service dogs are, in particular, an important category. They can become companions that save and/or improve the lives of their recipient, after being trained to do so.
About Service Dogs
Service dogs perform duties that go above and beyond the usual functions that pets fulfill. They assist their recipient, a person with disabilities, by performing tasks the person is unable to do. They do not just simply provide company.
Service dog recipients are called ‘handlers’. Service dogs are trained to act on cue from their recipient, and frequently if and when they sense their handler needs help. The bond between a recipient and their service dog is much closer than the bond between a pet dog and their owner.
There are around 500,000 service dogs in the US currently. The number is not high, especially compared to the number of dogs owned, because service dogs are highly trained. It takes an average of 18-24 months to train a service dog. Because service dogs are working dogs, and are rare, valuable dogs, they should not be treated as just a pet dog.
Best Practices When Around a Service Dog
It is generally expected that one should be careful around other people’s pets. However, with service dogs, one needs to be extra careful. Remember, service dog training can take up to two years and these dogs focus on caring for their handlers. They are working dogs, not out for just a pleasant walk.
Here are the best practices you should follow when around a service dog:
If you see a service dog team in public, before you pet or touch their dog, ALWAYS ask if it’s OK it you do. The person may tell you “Not now, the dog is working”. If a person takes their dog into public venues, exercises their public access right, they are legally obligated to have a Service Dog vest on their dog. Some people with disabilities do not display overt signs of their disability. For example, people suffering from PTSD or medical conditions like diabetes normally appear fine. The dog has to be identified as a service dog with their vest, so you’ll know it’s a service dog team.
It’s illegal to ask the person why they have a service dog, what’s wrong with them. The American Disabilities Act (ADA) establishes the legality of asking the person What tasks does your dog do, as that’s the legal definition of a service dog.
It is best to keep a distance from the service dog team to allow the team to go about their business undisturbed.
Do Not Make Assumptions
Even if you see a service dog sleeping, whatever size, or breed, perhaps a Labradoodle service dog, do not assume they are unoccupied. Service dogs work round the clock to assist their recipient as needed.
It is also best to stay out of their way because you never know when they might have to attend to an emergency. They are trained to be highly perceptible and taught to respond quickly in case their help is needed.
Service Dogs Should Not Be Offered Food
You may want to offer a treat or two when you come across a service dog. Offering food shows affection and love; however, this is a major no with service dogs. First, you are only distracting a service dog by doing so. They are doing a job and need to be focused on their recipient, not you.
Secondly, you never know if a service dog is on a diet or is allergic to a specific type of food. You do not want to make someone’s service dog sick.
Inform The Handler
If you encounter a service dog separated from their handler, be sure to inform its handler. Try to identify the recipient as best you can and let them know where their dog is. People with service dogs rely heavily upon them to perform daily tasks. Having their dog out of sight may cause such people great stress and anguish.
To prevent the negative mental health effect, be responsible and do the right thing. You must ensure that the service dog is reunited with their handler as soon as possible. Despite all the dog’s training, they can occasionally get separated from their recipient. It’s best to lend a helping hand in such situations.
Service Dogs And Well-being
Service dogs are deeply linked to their human’s well-being. Those who depend upon service dogs may find doing even the most basic tasks impossible without the assistance of their service dog.
Service dogs help to overcome challenges and form a very close bond with their handlers. They are not simply pets but companions who improve the well-being of the individuals they serve.
It is important to recognize the work they do and their dedication to their handlers. Service dogs are truly unique and worth all the praise.