We’re not sure about you, but any time we see a cute and cuddly dog come our way, we would throw ourselves over a row of chairs or through a crowd of people, just so we can give the little guy a nice belly rub.
If you’re the same, we’re guessing that you often experience two very common conundrums:
1. The owner doesn’t want you to stroke their dog, so you’re left feeling sad, unfulfilled, and ready to track down the next friendly dog.
2. The approaching dog just happens to be a service dog who is wearing a jacket that says “DO NOT PET. DOG ON DUTY.”
When it comes to the second scenario, things can start to get a little bit confusing. Of course, you wouldn’t want to break the working dog’s concentration, but what if it’s a special circumstance? For example, what if the service dog approaches you and its owner is nowhere to be seen?
This situation, personally, has never happened to me, but it’s one that I'm happy to know more about now in case it happens in the future. In fact, this knowledge is so important that it could just end up saving somebody’s life.
What to Do When an Unattended Service Dog Approaches You
First things first, let’s take a brief look at what these dogs are actually trained to do.
Contrary to what many believe, service animals aren’t regular pets that have crafty owners who have managed to fill out the “right” paperwork, they’re animals that have a very important job to do.
According to Service Dog Certifications, these canines offer a wide range of support to their owners, ranging from simple tasks such as retrieving mail or carrying medicine, to vocalizing a special bark that lets 911 operators know that something is wrong. Generally speaking, those who benefit most from service dogs are those who suffer from psychiatric illnesses, those who are hearing and/or visually impaired, and those who suffer from autism.
Most often, service dogs will only leave their owners in public when something is going very wrong. For example, a service dog might leave their master when he or she is suffering from a dangerous medical event, such as a seizure. When this happens, the dog will go off to find the nearest person and use body language to communicate to them that they need help. From there, the human will see that the dog’s owner is in need of medical assistance, and they can call 911.
Of course, this is what would happen in a perfect world if everyone knew exactly what to do when a service dog approaches them. Unsurprisingly, the number one thing NOT to do is to reach out and start cuddling the dog as this interaction can confuse or agitate them. This could make them lose track, meaning that their owner might not get the help that they seriously need. That's why if you ever see an unattended service dog, never touch it or do anything that may hinder their job. Instead, simply look around for anyone that might be in need of assistance.