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)

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