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Service Animals At Work

May 7, 2020

Keeping a six feet distance from others and stopping at a marked spot on the floor in lines for grocery store checkouts are behaviors that most of us are getting used to. But, they’re new tricks that you can’t teach seeing-eye dogs.

“There’s no way we can teach that,” Joan Markey with The Seeing Eye said. “The dogs are just taught to clear their owner around an obstacle, and sometimes those obstacles are people.”

The Seeing Eye is an organization that trains guide dogs, and they’re hoping to get a message out to the public, tasking the sighted population with helping guide dogs to navigate the new normal for their owners.

While social distancing can’t really change the way service animals work, it is changing the way some of them are trained.

“Normally they gain access as they get older, however with things being closed down here in Kentucky, it has put a little bit of restriction on where our dogs can go,” Samantha Kiewel with Wildcat Service Dogs said. “So, it does kind of restrict their socialization.”

That limits most of their training right now to things that can be done healthy at home.

But, it’s not all bad. The distance to stop the spread of COVID-19 is also reinforcing a rule many of us have a hard time with following, not petting service animals.

“You never want to distract a service animal from doing its task,” Cory Dahlkamp with Always Faithful Dog Training said. “So, right now, with people being socially distant, it’s kind of refreshing that everybody is staying six feet away because they’re worried about germs because that’s what they should be doing for people with service animals anyways.”

They’re behaviors for all of us to remember during the pandemic and after it’s over.

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