IT'S easy to recognise an assistance dog when you see one, but not everyone follows the 'rules' when they come across a dog in work mode.
In an impassioned plea on the Sunny Coast Community Board service dog handler Bec Tardent called on dog owners to "do the right thing” after an incident at a Noosa shopping centre.
When assistance dogs are wearing jackets indicating they are in work mode, they are supposed to focus on the job and not interact with other dogs or people. When people and dog owners break that rule, it can cause confusion for assistance dogs and their owners.
So when Ms Tardent and her dog approached a shop entrance where a dog, which had been left untied outside, came towards them, Ms Tardent took action immediately.
"I put our service dog behind me and basically stared down the dog, telling the dog in a firm voice 'no',” she said.
"I see it (as) really unfair if she's not allowed to interact with other dogs if they basically come up to her.
"I can walk her by no problems - she'll ignore them... Bit hard when they're approaching her trying to smell her butt!
"Imagine if this was a guide dog and the handler was blind? They'd have no idea until the dog was on them.”
Ms Tardent said her service dog has "plenty of 'free' time” to socialise with other dogs when she was not wearing her jacket, but interruptions to the routine could cause problems.
She called on dog owners to keep their dogs in check, especially if they're leaving them unattended, even for just a minute.
"Please do the right thing, if you're leaving your dog outside a shop, tie them somewhere safe just to the side of the entrance in case a person with a service dog needs to enter,” she said.”
The Assistance Dogs Australia website outlines why touching, talking to or making sounds at service dogs can be problematic.
"Touching is a distraction and can prevent Assistance Dogs from tending to their human partners,” it states.
"Be sensitive to the fact that Assistance Dogs are working and may be in the middle of a command or direction.
"Please always ask the handler before interacting with an Assistance Dog - whether they are in training or with their recipient.”
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