Dog training students should give more warning before class
Published: Monday, September 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 10, 2012 21:09
When I walk into a classroom, it is hard enough to focus on the lecture at hand without having to worry about seeing something that terrifies me and breaks my concentration. Having service dogs in a classroom with me is my biggest fear: being trapped in a room with an unknown animal.
Do not get me wrong, I respect the people training the dogs. As a person with a disability, and having had friends with visual impairments, I know just how helpful they can be and how much joy people with such impairments get from having a trained dog in their lives.
But when you have a fear of canines the way I do, it doesn’t really matter what they are being used for; you just want to get away from them as quickly as possible. It would be easy for me to fall if a dog jumps up on me because of my slight disability. I try to distance myself from the dogs as much as I possibly can when I encounter one. I even cut across the Green at night if need be.
The dog that’s being trained could be the nicest, sweetest dog around, but having had bad experiences with other dogs that have tackled me to the ground, I treat every dog I come across with suspicion. I feel that there are also some dogs out there that even though their trainer thinks is well-behaved and very friendly, will still snap at me or break loose from its leash and tackle me.
But it is not just fear that motivates me to bring this topic up; it’s also allergies that make this point one near and dear to my heart. Though I do not have allergies to dog fur, my sister has severe allergies to most domestic animals. If a dog even licks her, she breaks out in a rash almost immediately. I am concerned about people with allergies, even if they are not as severe as my sister’s. Pet dander, even if it is slight, can cause those who are allergic serious problems: they sneeze and cough, and their eyes water. It’s really hard to focus in some classes with the smell of mold, mildew and certain scents, but it is incredibly hard to focus when you add dog hair into the equation.
According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, 15 to 30 percent of people who have allergies have allergic reactions to cats and dogs. I would have to imagine many students here at the university have this issue, and there are probably five or six students in a class that have this issue.
Allergies and fear are only two reasons I bring this issue to attention. It is also a question of personal space. Even the most obedient and well-trained dog will want to explore its surroundings; it is a fact of nature. But does this really mean that dogs should be allowed to sniff around students’ possession and invade our space bubbles when we are all in classrooms? I should say I do not think so.
There was one day in my British literature class early last semester when another student brought her service dog and sat behind me. The dog started to sniff at my belongings, and I looked at her and asked her if she wouldn’t mind controlling her dog. She complied, but before class even began, the dog started doing it again. She looked down at the dog but did not do anything about it. I would have liked to have said to her, “There is no bomb in my bag, and the reason my coat smells funky is because I leant it to a friend who went clubbing last night.” But I didn’t, I just got up and moved to the front of the class. I think she got the message; she and her dog never came back to class again.
Now I am not saying we should ban all service dogs in training from classrooms. What I am saying is please be courteous to others. If you are going to introduce a dog into the classroom, please ask all the students in the class if they will have issues with the dog being there. Most issues can be solved with seating arrangements, but it is still courteous to be asked if there are any issues.
There’s no doubt that I respect what these students are doing. It is an honorable thing to give your time to train a service dog for the disabled or visually impaired. But it is also an honorable thing to ensure every person in your classroom feels comfortable with it.