Working dogs are a very common sight these days. You meet them in public places like airports, shopping malls etc., and like adults, children too are very curious about these animals who are obviously much more than just pets.
As any working dog-owner will tell you, having one makes strangers want to come up and socialize or ask a lot of questions because they are so fascinated by their training, intelligence, impulse control, threat detection skills and so on. Certainly, therapy dogs and protection dogs seem to have a quiet air of dignity about them that is probably born from years of rigorous training, and animal-loving strangers are often irresistibly drawn to them.
It’s the closest most people will ever come to a “wonder dog” – but because of the nature of their duties, and the fact they are actually “working” even while they are accompanying their handler in a public place, it is very important to respect these animals.
Children, in particular, have to be taught how to behave around a working dog, and here’s what you can tell them about all the sensitive and responsible ways they should be treated:
# 1: Ask For The Handler’s Permission
• Never approach a working dog directly – like you might do when you see a rather cute dog in the park. Do not touch or talk to the animal unless it’s owner says it is okay. This is not a matter of giving offence or even because the animal is likely to react aggressively. This is only because working dogs have different trainings depending on their specific duties, and casual interaction with strangers may not be the best thing for them.
# 2: Don’t Deliberately Distract Them
• It is plain rude to try and interfere with the dog’s focus on his/her job of guidance and protection, just because you want the animal to acknowledge you. As such, service dogs will stay in work mode until they get a release command from their handler, but your interference could be stopping the animal from a completing a task that you know nothing about.
# 3: Don’t Bring Your Dog Over Without Permission
• As the dog is `working’, you should not bring your own pet over for a friendly, social introduction, unless the owner says it is okay.
# 4: Don’t Offer A Treat
• Food is a distraction for any living creature. It is improper etiquette to offer a treat to a working dog, even if you happen to have one in your pocket. Also, some working dogs have special dietary regulations, and for all your best intentions, you don’t want to interfere with that.
# 5: Don’t Ask Personal Questions
• It is extremely impolite to invade the handler’s or the dog’s privacy because you are curious. Don’t ask leading questions, hoping the handler will reveal the sort of personal details you are dying to know!
# 6: Don’t Imagine The Dog Is Working `Too’ Hard
• Working dogs – whether they be guard/protection, therapy or assistance animals – get plenty of free time to relax, have fun and do all the doggie things that other pet dogs get to enjoy. And they love what they do!