The same is true for dogs wearing Vets, they are on the job, the Vest is their 'work clothes', a clear reminder to the dog that they are 'on the job'. This is especially true of dogs that are in training. When a puppy or dog is in training for either Therapy or Service work the Vest becomes a signal to the dog that they are training/working. Wearing the Vest helps the dog discriminate between work and play. What you allow your dog to do during their leisure is very different from what they can or should be doing when they are working and especially when they are in public. It's really no different for humans, we learn the difference between our leisure activities and our work activities. When I'm off work I can lounge around, chat online, make phone calls, basically do what ever I choose. When I'm working I have to learn to refrain from saying or doing things that I typically do when I'm off the clock. What would my students think if in the middle of a class I sat on the floor, started eating a bag of chips, texting my friends and giving hugs and kisses to all my students? People might laugh and think it was funny, but it would be odd and totally inappropriate for someone at work. The same is true for our working dogs or those in training, especially those that wear a Vest.
I recently saw dogs playing at a dog park who were both wearing Therapy Dog In Training Vests. My first thought was.....how confusing for the dogs, the Vest no longer reminds them that they are training or working. It was also clear that their owners had no clue what a Therapy Dogs job is, it certainly is not to visit other dogs at the park.
Don't misunderstand, I'm not saying that our dogs should not be allowed to have fun and act like dogs. What I'm saying is that the choice to place a Vest on your dog means that you are training them for a specific job, you're sending a message to the dog and the general public that your dog is 'In Training' or 'On the Job'. It raises the standard both for how our dog needs to behave in public and how the humans need to respond when they see a working dog.
When training a dog in public you're not only training your dog how to behave but your educating the general public about how they should or should not interact with a dog who is working. You may encounter people who 'feel sorry' for your dog because they can not jump on them, give kisses, act silly. I've had people makes comments like 'oh you poor dog, you never get to have any fun'. That always makes me laugh because my dogs have a much better social life than I do and are far from sad and lonely. What's important to remember is that you know your dog is not deprived of human affection and fun, you're just teaching them that there is a difference between work and play. Instead of allowing people to 'have their way' with your dog or repremanding them for encouraging your dog to act like a goof, try asking them to help you train your dog. The best training sessions I have are those that I do in public with the help of strangers. I recruit people to be part of my training process, they learn how to properly interact with a working dog and my dog learns how to behave while working, it;s a win-win!
To better understand WHICH dogs SHOULD be wearing a Vest, see the link below.
It's also important to note that there is a huge difference between training sessions in public and having your puppy/dog 'tag along' with you on errands, we'll be looking at that in a future post :)