Have you ever seen a service dog when out and about? Aren’t they cute?! They obey so well and provide such an amazing gift to their owner! Have you ever wanted to go up to the owner to pet their dog and ask the owner questions? Now that I’m on the receiving end of this, I would love to share some perspective.
One year ago, I had to make a difficult decision as to whether I would purchase a service dog. I knew that a service dog could provide many benefits and help with my limitations. However, the work of teaching, training, and owning a dog was work. Ultimately, I decided to do it. I purchased a puppy and as he grew, he learned his services for me. This journey has been interesting to say the least. I’ve gone through dog teething, house training, and the work of basic dog training. There were times I wanted to give him away. I had the struggle of my illness while adding the work of puppy training, family responsibilities, and business ownership. At times, it was overwhelming. Sully would give me hugs, unconditional love, and support that only he could provide—life was good again. Those days kept me going. Now, his training at home and with the dog trainer has paid off and I have the service dog I need. My healing has improved! We aren’t finished learning of the other service needs Sully can provide, but I can now say it was worth it.
One of these days I will share in greater detail of what caused me to need Sully, but for now, let me answer some of your service dog questions.
I get asked lots of questions. “What kind of dog do you have?” “Is he working?” “What service does he provide for you?” But, the most common question is, “May I pet him?” If you’ve met Sully, you would understand why. His big brown eyes look as if they are begging anyone and everyone to pet him. His curly coat is so soft and cuddly. Even a dog hater might be tempted to pat his head.
What is a service dog?
- A dog that is licensed to complete a task or many tasks that the owner could otherwise not do on their own.
- A dog that wears a SERVICE Dog vest. If the vest is on, he is working.
- It can go anywhere with its owner: grocery store, restaurant, plane, etc.
Is a service dog different than a therapy dog?
- Yes, a therapy dog has more restrictions as to what business establishment it can enter.
- A therapy dog may or may not be wearing a therapy dog vest. If worn, it will say “therapy dog” vs. “service dog”.
- A therapy dog has very limited or no training.
- A therapy dog can be petted when wearing a therapy dog vest. However, if I were you, I wouldn’t pet a dog you don’t know. It may not be trained well, and it could bite you!
How do I interact with a person with a service dog?
- Talk to the person as you would any one else. The dog is an extension of the person, not the other way around. When you meet the person, talk to the person. Let them decide if they want to introduce their service dog to you.
- Don’t pet or interact with a service dog! You are distracting the dog from its purpose. What if the owner has a heart condition, or has seizures? Your distraction could prevent the dog from alerting its master—which could put the owner in danger. You could also be in danger of being bit! A service dog is supporting the owner, NOT you. It may not be trained to socialize with you and might see you as a threat.
- Don’t ask the owner about their illness or disability. Keep the conversation on something positive and constructive.
- Teach others. When you see a service dog in action, tell others what you learned. You would be surprised how many people do not know the suggestions I’ve shared.
Dogs can bring such love! And, because of their intelligence and unconditional love, can help others in amazing ways. I trust that this article brings another level of understanding so these God-given creatures can be understood in their role of service. If you or someone you know is considering getting a service dog, please feel free to call me. Sully and I are happy to answer your questions. Or, if you feel the urge to pet Sully, his service vest is usually off while I am training clients at The Perfect Fit, LLC. You are welcome to come pet him then!