When people, especially younger children, see a dog their initial reaction is to want to run up and pet them. (And who can blame them? We are all “crazy” dog people here at SitStay and we love when people bring in their dogs to visit us!) Most of the time when you have a working dog, a vest helps to reduce the speed of oncoming individuals, sometimes even turning them away completely if there is a “Do Not Pet Me” patch on it. But what about people who don’t have a working dog and their dog is simply reactive? Can they wear a vest too without being fraudulent?
No one wants to misrepresent their dog as a working dog because no one wants to make it any more difficult for people who have working dogs to go about their lives in public. But what about people who have a dog that doesn’t like to be petted by strange individuals? Or who gets overly excited when a new person is approaching? Can their owners safely put on their dogs a plain vest with a simple “Please Ask To Pet” or a straightforward “Do Not Pet” patch? As long as your vest does not have a patch saying they are a service dog, and you aren’t trying to enter into places that do not allow pets, we say yes.
It is important to keep in mind that people will likely make assumptions that you have a service dog because they do not usually see a dog with a vest who isn’t a working dog. When possible, try to educate them that you have put a vest on your dog to help him in his environment and not because he performs a service task for a disability.
Keeping your dog well-behaved will also help to not tarnish the working dog community because in the event that your dog is mistaken for a working dog and you are unable to let them know the difference, a well-behaved dog keeps a good clean image.
Some of the best solutions we have found to help are:
Wearing a Plain Vest
Wearing a plain vest does not make your dog a working dog but it does help to get people to notice that your dog is unique and that they need to respect yours and your dog’s wishes.
“Do Not Pet Me” Patch
This sends a clear message that they should not pet your dog. Whether or not your dog is working, or simply doesn’t like strangers petting her, this gives a visual warning that your dog is not into it.
“In Training” Patch
This patch does not always mean that your dog is in training to be a working dog. It can mean simply that you are working with your dog to make them more comfortable in public places. Most of the time when people see an “In Training” patch they give your dog a wide girth because people understand that any kind of training is hard when there are unnecessary distractions.
“Ask To Pet Me I’m Friendly” Patch
This patch works great if your dog is shy and needs to get to know someone first before they can pet him. It lets people know that he is friendly but just needs a little bit of time and their owner’s encouragement that it is safe before they will allow you to pet him.