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What You Need to Know About Working Dogs


You know that really cute dog you see walking so beautifully next to person? It’s working, so please do not communicate with it.

Let me back up for a moment, dogs are great right!? Very rarely do you meet a pup out in public who’s not excited to see you and and spread their love and positive energy to you in every way possible—and,truthfully, as college kids we really need that. However, not every dog is up for grabs to pour your stresses out to in the verison of pets and sloppy puppy kisses. Especially working dogs.

As hard as it can be to refrain from giving all your love to a cute little dog (like that of my five month old yellow Labrador guide dog puppy for example) you are truthfully doing the right thing. Here’s what you need to know about how to treat working pups, regardless of age, and why.


1.Do not pet, motion, take pictures of, or talk to or at a working dog without permission from the handler.

You see, both working dogs and those are in training are trying their absolute best to remain focused on the given tasks/commands at hand to serve their human the best that they can. When you do these things, you distract the dog from its work putting the person they are leading and/or serving at risk for injury.  Plus, it’s simply not safe in general for anyone to do this regardless of the dogs status. However, you can still ask to pet the dog as long as you focus your attention on the handler first. Please note that even though you may have asked nicely, they are not obligated to let you pet them. Like I said before, they are working and petting the puppy can distract them, make the handler uncomfortable, or they may not have the time to do so.

For dogs in training, please note that it is not okay for the puppy to jump or bite you when you greet them. As cute as it may seem, it’s not ideal behavior for everyone and as a working dog it’s definitely not acceptable.

2. Do not feed the dog anything or insist that the handler allows you to do so.

Again, this is mainly an issue of distracting the dog from its work. However, offering a working dog a treat (regardless of where it came from and how much you trust the brand) could potentially make the dog sick or mess up its diet. From my experience working with guide dog puppies, many dogs are on specialized diets to promote healthy bones, digestive, and immune health so they can best serve their person. Furthermore, some of these pups can have food allergies and sensitive stomachs making that sweet offering you made wreak havoc on their digestive tracts thus preventing them from work. Not to mention, it’s kind of weird and awkward for a handler who doesn’t know you. After all, would you accept a cookie for yourself or your child from any stranger who pulled it out of their purse or pocket? No.


3. Never ask the person why they have the dog.

Believe it or not, this is actually part of the law deemed by the American Disability Association. For privacy/equality rights you are only able to ask a person if:

1. The dog is a working dog.

2. If it will be completing a task for them during their time in the establishment.

That. Is. It. If the person decides to disclose the nature of their dogs purpose and why they are important, that is up to them. For dogs in training, understand that most people would like to share their story with you, but it may not be he best time depending on the dogs behavior.


4. Stop claiming your pets to be “service dogs”  without proper training.

This one’s a little tricky and quite confusing, but there is such a thing as “fake service dogs.” I know it seems nice to have your dog with you everywhere you go, but it puts people with actual needs for the dogs (such as in the case of combat related PTSD, visual impairment, or Seizure) at a huge disadvantage. The problem in this case is dogs who are not truly working dogs set a bad tone in establishment when they misbehave as well as can distract/harm dogs who are actually serving their person. With the rise of fake service dogs today, people who train and use these pups are often denied access to establishments like grocery stores and restaurants which extremely unfair. I’ve also known cases where dogs whom were not actually working dogs have growled and attacked those who are causing them to experience fear and even early retirement. Moral of the story, keep your dogs at home unless you know for a fact that it’s a pet friendly place and your dog is too.


5. Understand that they get to be regular dogs too!!.

Yes, as a guide dog puppy raiser I get this question a lot—yes he, and all of his working friends, get to be regular dogs too!! When these pups are not working, they get TONS of love, attention, and playtime! I personally feel like I actually give my working dog more attention than that of my pet ones simply because he works so hard and we’ve developed such a codependent bond with one another. Trust me when I say, working dogs are absolutely spoiled from fluffy beds to daily brushing me and even the tastiest of bones!


If you have any questions about working dogs, any more tips/stories you think people should know, or would like to know more about puppy raising let me know! I’d be more than happy to listen!


Happy tails!




Alexis is a current student at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and is studying Biomedical Sciences with the intention of becoming a pediatric neurologist. She is a firm believer in the healing powers of aromatherapy, fine arts, and a daily cup of coffee. The number one thing on her bucket list is to travel to every continent within her lifetime.
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