Service dogs—dogs who are trained to help people by performing specialized tasks—have many important responsibilities. For instance, a guide dog needs to know when to safely cross a busy intersection with their handler who has a visual impairment. A seizure alert dog is trained to bark to alert a caregiver that someone is having a seizure or activate an alarm when a seizure is occurring. An autism assistance dog can keep a child with autism from wandering away from family in public places and can also track the child if the child goes missing. These are just a few examples of what some service dogs do for people all over the world, and it is plain to see that these animals play an essential role in the health and safety of people with disabilities.
Because of their vital roles, service dogs should never be distracted when they are working. This means that you should never touch, pet, or play with a service dog when he or she is on the job. Even if the dog looks friendly and he or she might be looking at you and wagging his or her tail, just the few seconds it takes to pet the dog could be enough time to distract him or her from paying attention to their handler’s needs, which could result in a life-threatening emergency.
So, the next time you see a service dog at the grocery store, walking into the post office, or even sitting next to his or her handler in a college classroom, please remember that they are hard at work. Whether they are guide dogs, seizure alert dogs, or mobility assistance dogs, these loyal animals have spent years training to come to the aid of their human companions in their time of need, which is why they have truly earned the title of man’s best friend.