How to interact with Guide and Service Dogs
People are often confused about interacting with a guide dog or service dog. Some people of course, mainly children, are unaware that a guide dog or service dog is actually on the job, and shouldn’t be distracted when working, But even adults are confused? When is it appropriate to pat a dog, feed it a treat, or rub his belly?
Why is it inappropriate to pat service and guide dogs, or grab his collar or harness?
It’s not so much that service guide animals will really get distracted when on the job. Most service animals spend literally hundreds of hours being trained to do the job, starting when they were mere pups.
Any kind of dog, but particularly a highly trained dog like a service animal, get’s positive reinforcement from their owner, reinforcement that comes from hugs, food, treats, belly rubs and reinforcement.
So even though an occasional pat from a stranger doesn’t do much harm overall, if it’s continually allowed, the dog may lose some of that reinforcement bonding from their owner.
This is the same reason that people should not take the arm of a blind person, instead of letting the dog do the work, and above all, should never grab the dogs harness.
The dog takes positive cues from its owner, and that bond should not be broken.
If you encounter a visually impaired person for example, you may ask if they would like or need your help, but if they accept, walk on the other side of them, not the same side as the dog. That way, even if you are assisting them with your arm, the dog is not in any way confused. He’s still following the cues from his owner.
Do service and guide dogs get to play?
Absolutely yes. Whenever the dog has his harness removed, that clues him in it’s time time to act like any other dog. They will jump, and play, bark, and generally accept patting like any other dog.
If a person has a service guide and you yourself have a dog on a leash, it is only polite to prepare the owner for the approach of another dog.
Where can guide and service dogs go?
Service guide dogs fall under several Australian Statutes designed to prevent discrimination, and generally, service dogs can go anyplace, whether it is a shop, public transportation, restaurant. hotel or motel, and hospitals.
It is important to remember that these dogs are working and should not be distracted from their work, which is helping their handlers to navigate and move around safely.
For further information
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