Why You Should Never Pet Working Service Dogs

Yes, they’re cute. Yes, they love pets as much as the next dog. But, you must respect the vest!

By Justyne Yuen-Lee


Credit: Instagram / @jordanjade22

I get it. When I see any dog on the horizon, I have to quell the urge to fast walk at maximum speed to arrive before its cuteness and sputter out, “May I please pet your dog!!” This same compulsion arises when I see a service dog, but I know the importance and responsibility designated by the vest. It means, “this dog is working.”  Distracting them with unwanted attention can potentially endanger the owner’s life. Although we’ve had almost 100 years of humans benefiting from this life-saving bond, some people have not yet learned why they should never pet a service dog.

Distraction means danger.

Brimfield Police Department

Credit: Brimfield Police Department

I could list specific reasons, like a person who is blind could stumble if you distract their Seeing-Eye dog, or a person prone to seizures could miss the warning of an impending episode. But, I think a comparison may sum it up best – petting a working dog is like talking to the security guard during a robbery. The split second you’re taking from the guard’s attention may be all that is needed for something awful to happen.


Credit: CBC / Joline Bernard

When Jolie Bernard of New Brunswick, Canada, goes out with Toby, she must deal with people distracting him. Toby helps Jolie live with a serious seizure disorder and can predict when she will have one. Toby will whine and tug at her leg to warn her a seizure is coming so she can prepare herself by getting on the ground or laying down. He can also bring her medicine and stays with her during her seizure.

But when Jolie’s in public, she often has to resort to slapping people’s hands away because they will not stop petting Toby. Toby always wears his vest when he is working, but some people just don’t get it. Jolie has even encountered parents encouraging their children to “pet the nice doggy.”

A learning opportunity

Lutheran Church Charities

Credit: Facebook / Lutheran Church Charities

Heather Logan, the head trainer at the Maritime Specialty Service Dogs Society, notices that, recently, children actually tell their parents not to touch working dogs. This could be the result of education initiatives within schools.


Credit: Instagram / @chiyoatyourservice

Although frustrating to deal with many people ignoring a Service Dog’s vest, Logan prefers a positive approach. She smiles and says, “Please don’t touch the service dog, but thank you for thinking he’s cute.”

Must. Resist. Petting.


Credit: Facebook / Animal Planet

All dogs are adorable, but with all of the self-control in the world, we must respect and resist petting working dogs because they have important jobs to do! Admire from afar!