When we are walking down the street or in the mall and we see a gorgeous dog often all we want to do is stop and say hello. In fact, sometimes it feels like greeting a dog and sneaking a pat is hard wired and we just can’t help ourselves.
But, in the case of Mobility Dogs and other service dogs, you should save your cuddles. It could be that you are already fully aware as to why you shouldn’t pat a Mobility Dog while it is working, but if you would like a refresher, or would like to share it with others that don’t know why then read on.
- Mobility Dogs are not pets – they are highly trained in order to improve the quality of life, health, safety, and security of the people they work for.
- A friendly pat on the head can ultimately distract them from the task at hand and could be dangerous for their human.
- Their human may be trying to get on with their day and doesn’t want to slow down, or feel like they need to explain their disability.
- A Mobility Dog could be working even when it doesn’t look like it – they always need to stay alert as they are always paying attention to their human handler and/or surrounding environment for cues and safety.
- The dog could be in the middle of a command or direction that is helping their partner.
So, what should you do when you see a Mobility Dog out and about? Our recommendation is to admire it from a distance.
Remember, it’s hard to know when a Mobility Dog is not “on the clock,” so it’s always best not to engage a service dog at all. If absolutely necessary, a person can address their handler instead and ask if you can interact with the dog (i.e. before talking to or trying to touch it). The handler will let you know if they feel safe and comfortable for the dog to be patted. If they ask you not to greet or pat their dog, there’s no need to be offended, it just means their dog is at work and needs to concentrate.
Although the work a Mobility Dog does is crucial, their lives aren’t all work and no play. They also receive training to know when they are not required to work. It’s during these times they can run around and play with other dogs and they also get time to ‘clock off’ when they are at home.
So, the next time temptation strikes to pat a Mobility Dog, curb that emotion and think of all the reasons you shouldn’t greet a Mobility Dog. And everyone from Mobility Dogs thanks you for being so kind and understanding – it is people like you that make our communities more inclusive and make the world a better place for New Zealanders who are living with disabilities.