Service Dogs Need A Break Too!

By: Joel Allen

Hello, folks! Years ago, I attended a nice Baptist church on Nick Davis Road. Zues was always with me each time I went. Every member of the church would greet us as we came in, and Zues was the attention getter every time. If no one saw Zues, it was like he wasn’t there because he was so quiet. We would sing and clap during worship service, and Zues would still remain quiet. We even went to a big church worship event in Nashville, TN, and Zues received a lot of attention there. I met a man who said he was legally blind and only saw shadows of light around everyone’s silhouettes. He surprised me when he looked at Zues and stated he had an unusual light of beauty around him. So, that’s how it was with Zues. Even in public when he was working, he kept it professional.

One day, the pastor of the Nick Davis Church came by to visit me at my house. Zues, being off duty so to speak, went out the front door with me, looking all serious with his shoulders squared, chest pumped out, jaw set, ears forward, and eyes locked. He approached the vehicle and barked at the pastor as he pulled up. Looking surprised, the pastor asked me if that was Zues because he never saw Zues act this way. I laughed and stated that it was and explained that this was Zues’s home and he was letting the pastor know this was his place, LOL. The look on his face was priceless, and he never viewed Zues the same after that. It made me feel proud that Zues was regarded for his professionalism when he was in public. If anyone knows what a “military bearing” is, that was Zues.

Every service dog I’ve had or trained knows that when we are out in public and they are wearing their vests, they are working. They are not allowed to act like a normal dog. They are not allowed to eat while in their vest (for which I am guilty of allowing only a few times and under certain circumstances). I do not encourage my SDs to use the bathroom while in their vests; I will remove their vest if they have to go. It is required of them to do as they are trained and to always maintain a certain appearance of calm in public.

That being said, a service dog needs to be a dog too. Those of us who use a service dog need to provide our SDs with neutral or safe areas where they can unwind and relax from their duties. It is not good that an SD work 24 hours a day, and yes, sometimes certain dogs will want to always work. So it is up to us to teach them that they can relax at certain times and places.

Some things I would suggest is letting them run loose when taking their service vests off. Use common sense though, and respect any leash laws there may be if in public areas. Take them on a regular walk, give them “lubbins” (rubbings and lovings), play fetch, or let them go on “sniffaris” (sounds like safaris but with the added word “sniff”). Some of us have more than one SD, and that is great because we can give time off to one while the other works.

All in all, I want everyone to understand that SDs are dogs too. They deserve a break, and we should never keep working them because they can get burned out, in my opinion. Ever met an over-trained dog? The ones I have met refuse to train after that, and keep in mind SDs are always training when they are working.

Today I have Houston, Zoey, and Felix as my SDs. Houston prefers to go all the time, and most of the time I take him. I use Zoey to give Houston a break, and my Felix is still training and learning about proper etiquette in public. That’s my setup for myself, and I suggest the same for everyone, if possible, because the ADA Law states that one is allowed to have up to three SDs.

So in saying all this folks, remember to give your SD a break. Let them be a dog, and have fun with them.  It will build your relationship into a better bond, and that is needed when they are working. Until next month stay safe.

By: Joel Allen