Just like pet dogs, service dogs have natural play instincts. It would seem unfair to deny them that. But, unlike regular pets, service dogs have a commitment to their handler. Whether or not service dogs can play with other dogs depends on the situation.
Generally, the answer is no. Service dogs shouldn’t play with other dogs when they’re on duty. Other dogs can be a distraction to service dogs, which can be dangerous for both dog and handler. But that doesn’t mean service dogs never get to play. Find out why and under what conditions your service dog may mingle with its canine relatives.
Do Service Dogs Ever Get to Play?
Service dogs still get to play. No matter how well you train your dog, they’re still dogs, so they’ll always have the tendency to play. But compared to pet dogs, they can’t play with just anyone.
Most times, people assume that service dogs are always on duty round the clock and never take time off. On the contrary, service dogs play as long as they are off-duty.
While their handlers are their primary playmates, service dogs can play with other dogs when off-duty under the supervision of their handler. But, if you have a service dog, this is why you often shouldn’t let your dog mingle with other dogs.
Why Service Dogs Shouldn’t Play With Other Dogs
- Possible injury: You can’t predict how roughly other dogs would play with your service dog. And a lot of dogs have a tendency to turn play fighting into real fighting. To avoid that, keep your service dog away from other dogs.
- Hard to get back to duties: When your service dog gets hyper playing with other dogs, it may be difficult to get them back to you. Which can be potentially dangerous, especially for guide dogs.
- Bad habits: Service dogs may pick up bad habits from other dogs or pets. Habits like searching the bin, digging the ground, and even rolling in mud.
- You can play with your service dog: Just because other dogs aren’t safe doesn’t mean that service dogs can’t play with you. You can play fetch, laser dot, and give toys to your service dog to improve their mood and health.
Playing Improves a Service Dog’s Health
Play is a huge part of a dog’s life because it serves as a mental and physical activity that significantly reduces cortisol – a stressor in dogs. Additionally, giving your service dog some time to play improves your relationship with it.
Also, you can allow service dogs to play as a reward for their service. For instance, if your dog senses danger and alerts you right on time, you could let it outdoors and play a game of fetch. These games significantly help boost their oxytocin and dopamine – the hormones responsible for positive feelings.
Can a Service Dog Live in the Same House as Other Dogs?
A service dog can most likely live in the same apartment as other dogs. But it’s not advisable if you can help it.
After training your service dog to perform alert tasks, visual guidance, drug detection, etc., allowing it to mingle with other dogs might shift its focus from its duties.
For instance, instead of your canine friend giving alerts when it should, it could be occupied with playing or fighting with other dogs. So, unless you’re willing to train its playmate(s), alongside your service dog, it shouldn’t live in the same house as other dogs. Besides, it can be difficult and stressful for you to train two different dogs simultaneously.
Learn More About Service Dogs
Be careful whenever you take your dog out to play. Putting a vest on your service dog can differentiate them from other dogs, and will help keep other dog owners at a distance.
You can find more information about service dog behavior and safety on the Sierra Delta blog.
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