Service Dog Etiquette [reprise]

Emmy gets my dropped cane for me

[I am reposting this, with some additions / revisions from my old “Waiting For the Woof” blog. The ADA Law and Regs have changed a little.]

I recently read some information about service dog etiquette that makes a lot of sense.

Since not everyone knows about service dogs, not everyone knows about service dog etiquette.

First – a service dog is not a pet! A service dog has at least 2 years of intensive socialization and training behind him and is an expert in what he does. Most have been bred from working dog stock and not only thoroughly enjoy, but need to work.

A person who has a service dog has a very well-trained working dog. When you meet them, remember that the dog is working. Don’t interrupt it.

Always speak to the dog’s partner first, and always ask before beginning to interact with the dog.

Don’t pet the dog or make noises at the dog without permission of the dog’s partner.

If the partner says, “No,” then the answer is, “No,” and simply agree with it and go with it. It has nothing to do with you, it has to do with the service dog and his duties.

Never offer food to a service dog! This will distract him from his job. It can even cause injury to the disabled partner.

If you encounter a service dog in training or a puppy in training, ignore it! At this stage of training, they are easily distractible and can have a whole day’s training lost if interfered with.

It is impolite to ask the partner about his disability. If you are intrusive enough to ask such an invasive question, do not be surprised if the partner refuses to discuss it. The partner is not being offensive – he just doesn’t want his privacy invaded any more than you would.

Business Owners

If you are a business person, you may not prevent a person from bringing his service dog into your establishment with him. Both Federal and State laws specify that service dogs are to be permitted into any business or location where other members of the public may go. Even clinics or hospitals usually permit service dogs to come in.

If you don’t like dogs, or are afraid of them, simply put yourself on the other side of the person from the dog. Do not make a scene, or otherwise distract the dog.

If the dog “forgets” his manners and barks or growls at something or someone, you may inquire as to what the problem is. If someone has been teasing, poking or otherwise alarming the dog, they should be reprimanded. On the other hand, some service dogs alert their partners to impending seizures or crashing blood sugars by barking once or twice, and that may be the source of a bark or two.

You may ask the person to remove their service dog from the premises if the dog’s behavior is disruptive or destructive.

If another customer has a severe allergy to dogs, you might ask the person with the service dog if you can help them outside or if they can wait outside until the person with the allergy is through. This problem has not been defined by law, however. Balancing the health needs of the allergic against the rights of the disabled with service animals will probably be worked out in courts of law in the future.

If other customers complain about the presence of the service dog, explain that the service dog is medically necessary, and that Federal law AND State law protect the rights of the person to have their service dog with them in public places.

Many disabled people with service dogs carry pamphlets or cards that explain Federal ADA laws about service dogs. Some carry information about the training their dog has gone through and any certifications it has. You might politely ask the disabled person if they have such information with them if another customer is confused and you feel you don’t have enough information yourself to help the situation.

Places To Go For More Information

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Update: Primer for Small Businesses – section on service dogs

Americans with Disabilities Act: Title II 2010. Took effect on March 15, 2011.

Delta Society

Assistance Dogs International (ADI)

International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP)

Palmetto Animal Assisted Life Services (PAALS)


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: When A Dog Is More Than A Dog-Officer Shultz | Taking On A Cause by Patsy McCaw-Yager,Englewood, Fl.
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  3. bluerosegirl08
    Sep 11, 2011 @ 15:27:34

    Hello! Emmy is beautiful. I am currently training my own service dog. He is a five-month-old golden retriever who seems to have ESP. I invite you to come along on Gideon’s journey.


  4. Heather E. L. Gerquest
    Jan 18, 2012 @ 23:21:44

    If a person has an allergy then both parties must be accomadated, either by compromise or other means. The disabled individual should not have to wait outside because someone is allergic. Some people say they are allergic when really they just don’t like dogs or something. A person with a service dog will not necessarily carry any paperwork. In fact, many teams may not have any paperwork. They also do not have to show an ID. If people offer these things at the door, they will expect every team to have paperwork and IDs. Ideally, every service dog would at least be marked by a patch or vest, or special harness, but so far it doesn’t look like it will happen. Service dogs come from a variety of places. Many breeders donate puppies to service dog training facilities. Some dogs come from shelters or rescues, some disabled individuals may choose to purchase and train their own dog. Wherever a service dog originates, the service dog must be able to behave appropriately (as a service dog, not a pet) in public, and the handler must be disabled or it is not a service dog. A poorly trained service dog reflects badly on the rest of the service dog handling community. Having worked my butt off to have a well-trained service dog, it really irks me to see people (disabled or not) casually taking their pet dogs (some very poorly behaved) into public places. A barking or lunging dog can distract a working service dog as well. I just had to add that last part. That is totally my stuff:)


    • turtlemom3
      Mar 30, 2012 @ 13:33:36

      You are absolutely right. I have not encountered non-service dogs being brought inappropriately into public places, but I have heard of it from people who did experience it. Someone had a yappy little Yorkie-mix that bit a a friend of mine on public transportation. My friend brought suit, but the other person won – for all the reasons noted: no ID required, no harness or cape required.

      I’m of the opinion that all service dog training organizations should be members of ADI (Assistance Dogs International), and that all people who are partners to service dogs should belong to IAADP (International Association of Assistance Dog Partners). This is just my opinion.

      I also think that service dogs should be provided with a 1 year certification of passing an ADI exam. This exam is not onerous. In our case, we go to a local mall and act like shoppers. Emmy has to present a wrapped wallet to a “cashier” (actually one of the examiners), take it back and give it to me. It requires lifting up to a counter. Emmy does not like doing this, but she does it for me. We handle getting on and off elevators, and picking up things that are dropped. Recently, we were in line for a book signing, and 3 of the people in line near me dropped things. With their permission, I had Emmy pick each thing up and give it to me. Then I gave them to the owners. They were really impressed! In the food court, I have to demonstrate that I have control over Emmy, preventing her from eating things dropped on the floor, or even shoved under her nose! For a Labrador Retriever, that is really difficult! They ask me a few questions, and then we go to lunch. The examiners sit at a separate table while Emmy and I sit with whoever my “chair pusher” is, and with some of the others who are being tested. We get the results – so far all of us have passed without problems – and we all go home. It’s no problem!

      I have some real problems with people who don’t believe service dogs should be tested and certified. My opinions, but I’m adamant. Service dogs need to be demonstrably obedient, non-aggressive, and under the control of the handler. The ADI test is actually minimal – it confirms day-to-day activities – and it is not onerous for people or dogs. If this was required, it would make service dogs more acceptable to the general public.


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