If you’re a dog lover, then service dogs can make you gush like nothing else. Whether the dog is to help you or you just run across one in the wild, it’s important to remember that they have a specific set of etiquettes that you should understand. Just like you behave differently with diplomats at a state dinner, you need to make adjustments when you interact with a service dogs. It might feel confusing, but a couple of quick do’s and don’ts will clear the air so you can proceed with confidence.
DO Internalize Your Giddiness
Your first instinct will be to speak gibberish and instantly sweep the dog into a fierce cuddle. You must resist this urge, as it counteracts a lot of the training that goes into service dog life. These dogs are professionals, after all, and you should treat them as such. However, there are absolutely no rules about cuddle fantasies. Let your inner self go wild and daydream to your heart’s content about all of the cuddling, playing, treat giving and other fun things you’d love to do with this amazing dog. Ultimately, if you have to space out a bit and ignore the dog and the owner in order to properly curb your actions, go for it. Service dog teams are actually pretty used to this, and, like celebrities, they’ve learned to cope pretty well.
DO Take Lots of Cute Pictures
One of the primary lessons around working with service dogs is that they are not pets, and you have to modify your behavior accordingly. Unfortunately for them, their professional nature makes them no less adorable. Thankfully, dogs still don’t understand cameras (as far as we know), so you can take tons of cute pictures when they aren’t looking. You might have to avoid some of the adorable extras like doggy sweaters and handkerchiefs, but since they’re professionals, they can pull off a good look without the help. Since you’re going to be uploading the pictures to all kinds of social media, be a good business partner and put a few good shots on LinkedIn for them. Service dogs need a healthy work profile too. Most importantly, make sure you take every opportunity to brag about the dog to your pet-loving friends. They’re sure to be properly jealous.
DON’T Count on Them to Pay the Rent
You would think that having a service dog would come with appropriate extra income, but somehow it just never works out that way. That shouldn’t shape your value of the dog’s work. Stay-at-home dogs contribute just as much to society as those in other fields, and it isn’t their fault that they don’t get properly compensated for the countless things they do. Still, even if it is unfair, you can’t add their paychecks to the monthly budget. It’s unclear if it comes down to animal rights or too many years of not paying taxes, but canine earnings are sure to disappoint you, and it’s your job to make ends meet regardless. It’s also important that you never try to hold that over their heads. The last thing a hard-working service dog needs is the extra stress from constant reminders that they aren’t putting food on the table or keeping the lights on.
DON’T Let Them Make Pets Feel Inadequate
Continuing on the topic of responsible social behavior, it’s important that you don’t let the success of a service dog make other, out-of-work dogs feel unimportant or unloved. The Service isn’t for every dog (or animal), and in some cases they may have even flunked out of training. You certainly don’t want to rub salt in that wound. Even if another pet isn’t a dog, you should still keep this etiquette in mind. While cats seem pretty impervious to insecurity, goldfish are notoriously self-conscious, and praising the service dog too much in front of them could cause a lot of grief. Simply remembering to throw a proper “good dog” (or fishy) at the lovable pets in front of the service dog can go a long way to maintaining a healthy relationship.