If a Service Dog With No Owner Approaches You, It Means They Need Your Help

July 6, 2019 Updated: July 6, 2019

Service dogs are the elite among man’s best friend, and as such, they receive special treatment. We know that K-9 officers and seeing eye dogs get special privileges, like access to airplane cabins, airports, malls, restaurants, and grocery stores.

Other service dogs are trained to assist people with medical conditions or traumatic disorders. We know that when they’re wearing their bright vests, they are on duty. They might even sport badges stating: “Do Not Pet” or “Service Dog on Duty,” emphasizing their important purpose. We are fascinated by the exceptional discipline and sense of duty exhibited by these dogs even in noisy, crowded public  situations.

Illustration – Shutterstock | Shine Caramia

But as one instance proved, where a woman whose service dog was trained to help in case she had a seizure, not everyone knows how to respond to a service dog’s “call” for help in an emergency situation. The woman made a point of educating the public about what had transpired when she tripped and fell one day.

She shared an online public service announcement on Tumblr in which she stated: “If a service dog without a person approaches you, it means the person is down and in need of help.” After she fell, her service dog had responded dutifully, setting off like Lassie to seek an adult helping hand. What ended up happening , though, was that he tried getting the attention of an annoyed woman who started “swatting” him and telling him to “go away.”

Illustration – Flickr | U.S. Secretary of Defense

The point of the post was clear: service dogs are trained with a purpose and should be taken seriously; if a service dog comes to you without an owner on the other end of the leash, there’s probably a good reason. She added:

Don’t get scared, don’t get annoyed, follow the dog! If it had been an emergency situation, I could have vomited and choked, I could have hit my head, I could have had so many things happen to me. We’re going to update his training so if the first person doesn’t cooperate, he moves on, but seriously guys. If what’s-his-face could understand that lassie wanted him to go to the well, you can figure out that a dog in a vest proclaiming it a service dog wants you to follow him.

Her Tumblr post clearly resonated with online readers. Over 97,000 liked, responded, or shared the important announcement. The “Today” show shared her message on their Twitter page and even put together a short program on live television, with their own service dog Sunny, to demonstrate how a service dog might try to “ask” for help. They brought in a live trainer, Olivia, who explained to audience members that, typically, a guide dog will nudge your leg with his nose if he needs your help.

“In general, if you see the dog in-vest, without a person attached to it, follow them,” she explained. As for what you can do to help, the trainer explained that there aren’t any verbal secret words to tell the dog; “You might just say ‘what’ or ‘where’ or just start moving. You just start to go then follow them where they go.”

Illustration – Shutterstock | bluecrayola