Parents are being encouraged not to allow their children to pet service dogs whenever they see them in public. That’s because petting a service dog might distract them from the important work that they are doing.
Many animal experts agree that if you pet a service dog, there’s a strong possibility that they might get distracted from their task. Should their handler get sick of injured, chances are that you – and not your child – will be blamed.
Although many people know that you shouldn’t pet service dogs in public, a lot of children can’t help but do it anyway. For example, mobility assistance dogs – or rather balance dogs – provide their partners with balance and stability while walking. Should a dog get distracted or start walking in the direction of a person calling out their name chances are they will leave their partner during the middle of their task.
There are also two other kinds of pet service dogs – medical alert dogs and psychiatric service dogs. A medical alert dog warns their partner of an impending seizure, loss of consciousness or a serious change in blood sugar. A psychiatric service dog, meanwhile, are trained to perform certain tasks related to their partner’s disability.
That’s why one person, who travels with her pet service dog everyday, is taking matters into her own hands by educating the public on the dangers of distracted a working pet. Mom Laura Joos recently took to her Facebook account to share an experience she had at a Walmart store when a passing child hit her service dog, Polly. It distracted the dog and caused her to miss an alert that Laura was in danger of losing consciousness.
In an open letter to someone she encountered during a shopping trip, Laura wrote, “You couldn’t tell my hip was sliding in and out of place and every step I took was painful, agonizing. You couldn’t see that your daughter’s actions caused my dog to miss a second alert. My heart rate now nearly 120, I felt like I was going to vomit. Luckily, I made it to my car before the full effects of my heart rate hit me like a ton of bricks. I lost almost consciousness. Luckily my kids didn’t have to stand over their mother in the middle of the grocery store waiting for her to wake up.”
Animal experts strongly encourage parents to talk to their children about pet service dog etiquette. A few ground rules to go over include no petting, no talking to the pet, no saying his or her name, no making eye contract and no action in an attempt to get the dog’s attention.
Regardless of what the dog is doing – or how cute they are for that matter – pet service dogs need to be focused on their partner at all times, and therefore cannot waste any moments being petted or cuddled by strangers, and especially children. While it’s noted that these dogs are also trained to avoid these kinds of distractions, dogs are still dogs and are still impervious to anything or anyone that comes their way.