Is your dog working?
Can I pet your dog?
Does he bite?
These are questions I’m asked almost every day.
If a person interferes with a service dog or dog guide while the dog is working, the distraction can make it unsafe for the dog to perform properly. To reach out and pet a working dog could possibly result is injury to handler, dog or both.
The standard protocol while the dog is working is that nobody but the handler touches the dog. Not all handlers strictly adhere to that. The best thing to do is ask the handler. This tends to be relaxed when the dog is not working, indicated when the dog is out of harness or not wearing its vest.
Service dogs are often well socialized to handle touching by children and adults. The preferable thing is for parents to teach children to not reach out to pet any dog. A random pet, pat or poke may be all it takes to irritate some canines.
The following dos and don’ts are appropriate to people who interact with their pet dog or with a working dog on or off duty.
Pet Project recently posted an article by Dr. Sophia Yin, How Kids Should and Should Not Interact with Dogs.
Yin identified four dos for children when interacting with a pet dog:
1. Play fetch with the dog. “Fetch where the dog willingly. That is fun for dogs who love to retrieve.”
2. Use tricks and treats to reward good behavior
3. Exercise the dogs.
4. Play games with your dog.
Yin stated, “Adults should ensure that the dog has lots of positive associations with the kids. The kids can regularly give food rewards for the dog’s calm, polite behavior, such as automatic sits. Even if the child is generally well-behaved and the dog very tolerant, it’s essential for all interactions to be supervised. Accidents can happen in a split second.”
During play time, my off-duty service dog Frisco had a high tolerance for children. Toddlers would fall or climb on him. While running and playing, he was extra-careful to not plow into the children. In the almost 15 years I had Frisco, he never harmed a child or an adult.
Frisco wasn’t as tolerant during his senior years. A toddler at a 4th of July parade zeroed in on him. As the child came closer, Frisco got up and walked to me for his safe zone. As I soothed and comforted him, he became tense At times like that, I asked parents to hold onto their child or move on as my dog let me know he did not want interaction.
Yin’s what not to do list:
1. Don’t interfere with a dog while the dog is eating.
2. Don’t hit the dog with any kind of play toy. Some toys are made of rope, rubber or hard plastic. A hard toy like these can injure the dog.
3. Do not stare into the eyes of a dog or stick your face in the dog’s face.
4. Do not corner a dog.
5. Do not, even in play, hit or kick a dog.
6. Don’t climb on or invade the personal space of a dog.
7. Don’t scream or yell at a dog.
8. The body language of a dog will indicate whether or not to pet or hug the dog.
Yin said, “Follow these simple dos and don’ts and everyone will be safer and happier. . . . The key is to teach both the dog and the children to be polite. Make sure your children interact with your dog the same way you want them to interact with you.”
Thoughts? Questions? Please share them here.
Clarence can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org