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What Service Dogs (and Their Owners) Want You to Know

Service dogs have a tough job - but not everybody knows that! Sometimes our love for dogs can hinder our ability to see them as working pups. Here are some things that you should know about service dogs - knowing some could even help their owner in emergency situations.

Look for the Vest/Collar

All service dogs are required to have a marking indicated that they are a service dog, especially if they're in areas where they usually aren't allowed (like malls, grocery stores, etc.) If you see a dog with a "service dog" vest or collar, know that this is their primary purpose and that you should be aware of how they're behaving in case their owner needs help.

Service Dogs Are All Shapes and Sizes

Don't doubt a dog's validity as a service dog just because they look different. Service dogs can be anywhere from the size of Great Danes to the size of Chihuahuas. Their ability to help is what's important. 

Don't Engage 

Unless you have explicit permission from the owner, don't engage with a service dog. Don't pet them, talk to them, whistle at them, etc., unless the owner first says it's okay. The simple reason here is that the dog is working. Distracting them could make the dog anxious (since they have a job to do) and/or distract them from their job. Only if the owner gives you permission is it then okay to give them a pet on the head. 

Don't Ask Too Many Questions

People who need service dogs  - need them - that's that! While some people may not mind answering questions, think about how many times a day someone with a service dogs is asked what they're for, how they were trained, etc. For businesses, it is actually illegal for owners to ask why an owner needs their service dog. Instead, just admire the dog from afar for how cute they are and what they're doing for their owner.

Follow Them

This is very important. No matter how big or small, if they're wearing a service vest, a dog i there to help another woman. Recently, a woman had a seizure in public and when her service dog went to alert another adult (as he had learned), the adult simply shooed him off. While the woman is alright, this is a critical misunderstanding that can happen easily. If a service dog approaches you alone, be sure to follow them. You can ask "Where?" or "Where is your mom/dad?" to help, but if you start walking, they will lead you to their owner. 

The last suggestion on this list is very important - always be sure to pay attention to a service dog in public - you could help save a life. 

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Jenna Gomes

Published by

Jenna Gomes