If Service Dogs could speak, what would they share with you? Well, while that question is impossible to answer (at least at this time!), we’d like to think that we’ve hit the main points on the top things Service Dogs would want you to know.
I’m Not a Pet
First and foremost, I’m not a pet. I’m a highly trained working dog, and I have a job to do. I am a dog, for sure, but I’m a special dog, a dog with specialized skills and the right to accompany my disabled human partner pretty much anywhere they go. There are exceptions, but not many!
Not All Service Dogs Are the Same
I’m not like that Labrador you saw last week at Wal-mart. Some of us are alert dogs, some of us offer physical support to our partners, and some of us mitigate psychiatric disabilities or respond to emergencies caused by our handler’s disability. We all have different jobs. If you want to learn more about the types of Service Dogs, check this article out! We can be any breed, any size or any color.
Please Don’t Judge Me
I know there are lots of poorly behaved dogs wearing Service Dog gear, but I need you to know I’m not one of those. I have excellent manners and solid training, and you’ll know the difference as soon as you see me. Please don’t judge me based on the behavior of the last Service Dog you saw — like I said, each of us is different.
It’s Exhausting For Me To Do My Job
When I get home at the end of the day, I’m dog tired. People say all the time, “How can you be tired!? You laid around all day!” Here’s what they don’t understand, though — it takes a ton of mental energy, focus and impulse control for me to quietly relax and watch the world go by for hours on end, while also monitoring my handler. Some task work is more tiring than others — those of us who pull wheelchairs or provide mobility support tend to work harder than those of us who turn on lights, open doors or retrieve dropped items.
Even When I Don’t Look Like I’m Working, I Am
I know it’s tempting to think I’m not doing anything when I’m relaxing quietly by my partner’s side, but I am! If I’m in my Service Dog gear, I’m working. If I’m in public with my handler, I’m working. If I’m not actively doing task work, then I’m monitoring my handler while keeping an ear or eye tuned for cues, commands or requests from my human.
If You Distract Me, I’m Not Doing My Job
If you talk to me, make noises at me, crouch down and stare at me, whistle, bark at me, or try to touch me without my handler saying you can, then you’re distracting me and you’re the reason I’m not doing my job. Even when I don’t look like I’m working, I am. I have to keep my attention on my handler all the time, or I could miss something important. If I miss something, my handler could suffer illness, injury or experience another complication related to their disability. Please don’t distract me.
My Skills Aren’t Easy to Maintain
I have hundreds of hours of training. It’s not easy to maintain my skills — my task work, public access behaviors, manners, basic and advanced obedience, and my emergency response behaviors all have to be practiced regularly. You know what they say — use it or lose it!
I’m a Lot of Work
I know I’m cute, but I’m a lot of work. I required daily training, exercise, time outside, feeding, regular grooming and healthcare, and time and attention. I need someone to take care of me every single day without exception, no matter how sick they’re feeling or what’s going on. Having a Service Dog isn’t easy, and you should ask yourself if you’re prepared to handle it before you partner with one of us.
I Have Off Days
I’m a dog, not a robot. I have incredible, awe-inspiring skills, but I’m still a living creature. I have off days, just like you. Some days I’m a little slow, grouchy, or don’t feel like working, just like you. These days are few and far between, though!
I Get Time to Just “Be a Dog”
When I’m not working, I get time to just be a dog. That doesn’t mean I can act like a fool, but it does mean I get to play, relax, wiggle wag around, enjoy bones and toys and treats, and get some time with my family without having to worry about my partner.
What do you think your Service Dog would add to this list? Tell us in the comments!