Service Dog Etiquette


Service Dog Etiquette

Best practices to consider when in the presence of a dog-on-duty!

By Kaylen Alvarez



Service Dogs — sometimes referred to as assistant dogs — are utilized by individuals with varying disabilities. They are often bred, and always trained for the essential role they play in their handler's life. These special pups can lead their owners through crowds, across roads, or up and down wheelchair ramps. In most cases, they're able to bring objects to their owner; such as phones and medicine bottles.


Considering the many life-saving tasks service dogs are responsible for, there are certain rules and customs that others should familiarize themselves with to ensure nothing interferes with their job. When their 'Service Dog' vest or harness is on, it means they are working, but they can only operate successfully when those around them follow the Do's and Don'ts below.

You Can Look, but Don't Touch!

            DO NOT — despite how tempting it may be — touch, feed, talk to, or distract a service dog on duty! Although these pups are trained to stay in work mode, it's best to avoid interference as they may be in the middle of completing an important command.

            DO assist the service dog or handler upon request. If the owner needs help beyond that which their dog can provide, they'll make it known to their pup that your involvement is welcomed..

            DON'T attempt to grab or steer the handler/owner. This can understandably confuse their service dog.

            DO approach the handler, NOT the dog! The handler and their dog are a team, so if you would like to speak with them, address the owner directly. This allows their counterpart to stay focused on their job. 

            DON'T mistake a sleeping service dog as an off-duty pup. If the vest is on, they're still working and should not be bothered.

DO keep your own pet out of the way of service dogs, and refrain from allowing them to try and communicate or interact with such working dogs.

DO NOT walk on the left side of a service dog-handler team! If you are out with a friend and their service dog, they will likely tell you to stay on their right side, ahead, or behind their right shoulder.

DO remember that service dogs have the right-of-way.

DO NOT give them commands. They are trained to respond to their handler.

DO know the law! There are important laws and regulations that pertain to service dogs and service animals in general. They are allowed anywhere that is open to the general public, so you may want to read up on their rights to ensure you don't mistreat the dog or handler in an unlawful way. There are also strict consequences for those who venture to fake owning a service dog, just to get their regular pup into non-pet friendly spaces — don't be that person.

In Conclusion

Service dogs are more than mere pets, they are an extension of their owner. They should be treated with honor and respect for the good work they do; protecting and saving lives! So the next time you see a service dog, keep your distance and mind your manners — they've got a job to do.


And for those looking to protect their service dog, there are many resources to look into, one being canine insurance! Insuring your dog-on-duty can make the difference when it comes to the uneducated public distracting and messing with your pup.


Research & Resources

Get Your Canine Registered as a Service Dog

Service Dog Requirements




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