Many people have a vague sense of awareness that Service Dogs “help” their person and that they’re allowed to be in public, but there’s a lot more to Service Dog handlers and teams than meets the eye. To help fill in the holes, here are the top 10 things Service Dog handlers want every member of the public to know and understand.

Service Dog Etiquette1.) My Service Dog Is Working
When you see my partner and I out and about in public, please understand that she’s doing vital work for me, even if she doesn’t “look like” she’s working to you. Just like when you’re working, she just wants (and needs) to be left alone to do her job. Please don’t distract my Service Dog from her job by yelling at her, talking to her, using baby talk at her, touching her, touching her equipment, crowding her, whistling at her, barking at her or otherwise doing anything except politely ignoring her.

2.) My Service Dog Is My Lifeline
Depending on my disability, my Service Dog may be the only thing standing between me and death. She’s my lifeline and she means the world to me. Please don’t distract her from doing her job or her tasks because my life, health, and peace of mind, rests in her paws. If you distract her and she isn’t able to respond appropriately, my ensuing illness or injury is YOUR fault. Please just ignore her entirely and let her focus on her job, which is keeping me safe.

3.) My Medical History Is Private
Please don’t ask me about my diagnosis, try to guess the reason I have a Service Dog, or ask me to disclose my private medical history. Even if you can’t readily tell what my disability may be, it’s really none of your business. Making inquiries about personal information is not only uncalled for, it’s very rude.

4.) I Don’t Always Want to Answer Questionsgallonofmilk
My Service Dog has made a huge difference in my life, but I don’t always want to stop and talk to every single person who wants to ask me about her. Sometimes, I just want to run a quick errand and go home, just like you. Please keep in mind that almost every person who sees me out in public with my Service Dog wants to ask me about her job, her purpose, her name, her breed, where she was trained, what she does, how old she is, and a plethora of other questions. Please don’t be offended if I’m slightly short or dodge your questions. Most of the time, they’re personal questions anyways and shouldn’t be asked.

5.) Not All Service Dogs Are The Same
Service Dogs come in all shapes, sizes, breeds, colors, coat types and specialities. You cannot identify one by sight alone and it doesn’t matter if you think my partner doesn’t “look like” a Service Dog. Unfortunately as well, fake Service Dogs are relatively common, and they do a lot of damage to legitimate teams. Please don’t judge my obviously well-trained, well-mannered, quiet, well-groomed, highly responsive Service Dog based on the behavior of some yappy, smelly, aggressive little mongrel someone claimed was a “Service Dog.” Behavior tells all, and I ask that you not compare me to any other Service Dog handlers or teams you may know or may have met, because not all Service Dogs are the same.

6.) My Service Dog Is Loved
Please don’t tell me you “feel sorry” for my Service Dog because she has to work all the time. She’s incredibly loved and she does in fact enjoy “time off” so she can just be a dog. She does get treats, she does get to play and sometimes, when she’s off duty, she enjoys getting the “zoomies” and running around in massive circles like she’s lost her connection to the mothership and she’s trying to re-establish the signal. She’s very well taken care of and she’s better off than most pet dogs because she’s well-adjusted, highly trained and well socialized.

Service Dog Medical Equipment7.) My Service Dog Is Medical Equipment
My Service Dog is medical equipment, just like a wheelchair, crutches or an oxygen tank. She is medically necessary and anywhere in public medical equipment is allowed, so is my Service Dog. Additionally, please treat her like medical equipment. You wouldn’t walk up to someone you didn’t know and just randomly start pushing their wheelchair or talk to a little old lady’s cane, so please don’t touch, talk to, pet or otherwise engage with my partner.

8.) My Service Dog Is Protected Under Law
United States federal law protects my Service Dog’s access rights. Federal law allows my Service Dog and I to go ANYWHERE in public people are allowed to frequent. There are no exceptions, and we don’t care if food is being made, it’s a hospital or you don’t want dogs in your business. Federal law gives my Service Dog COMPLETE access, and your opinion doesn’t matter. The only times my Service Dog could be excluded from any public place is if she’s not housetrained or is out of control and I’m not doing anything about it, and neither of those would EVER be an issue.

9.) There Is No Certification Required
There are no papers, documentation, ID, certification, or other required information of any kind for me to have my partner in public with me. Not only is there no documentation necessary, but it’s illegal for you to ask for any. If you’re a business owner and you’re not certain my partner is a Service Dog, then you may ONLY ask two questions: if my partner is a Service Dog, and what work my partner does for me. That’s all. You can’t ask for my private medical information, request “paperwork” or do anything except ask me those two questions.

10.) I’d Rather Not Have A Service Dog
Please don’t tell me you’d “like to have a Service Dog.” In order to have a Service Dog, you have to be disabled as defined by U.S. federal law. Everytime you say, “I wish I had a Service Dog,” you’re saying, “I wish whatever is wrong with you was wrong with me, too!” Also, please don’t tell me you “wish your dog could go everywhere with you.” Again, that requires SO MUCH MORE than you think it does, not the least of which is thousands of hours of training and socialization. It’s not easy and while my partner is completely worth it, I’d rather not need her.

Did you enjoy this post? Here are some others you may find interesting:

Types of Service Dogs
Service Dog Etiquette
Federal Service Dog Law in Plain English
Things Service Dogs Should and Should Not Do In Public
Answering Questions About Service Dogs in Public

117 COMMENTS

        • I did just now. I found it very informative, but a few points troubled me, in particular #10. As a chronic migraine sufferer, my disability is less visible and less difficult to handle than, say, flash migraines like my fiance gets–and seizures are worse than either; I fully acknowledge that. However, migraines are still a constant companion which can cause extreme pain and even death from migrainous stroke. My fiance or I would say “I wish I had a service dog” not because either of us is an ignorant idiot with no respect or awareness, as the article implied, but because a service dog could empower us and help us live more independent and less stressful lives.

          I could spend more time away from home without worrying about being stranded in a brightly lit, loud public place that’s hard to get out of. I could take my medication early, which is critical to avoid the suffering associated with a migraine. I could also avoid some of the stress which seems my most frequent migraine trigger, and have fewer migraines overall (every successive migraine does damage to the body, so this is also critical). A service dog could do all that for me and it’s something I’m very interested in as soon as I move overseas. For my fiance, it’s even more critical, as his migraines come on much faster, and he also has a disorder which results in his body overproducing the chemicals for emotions like anxiety and hurt.

          I wish the author had been more charitable in her estimation of others. A disability is a disability, even when it’s not as bad as others, and I don’t want us to marginalize one another… especially not to the point where a simple request for information to help empower oneself against one’s disability is regarded as a shameful affront. Even if she doesn’t want to answer such questions all the time at the grocery store, which I understand, she nevertheless could have been more fair-minded here. I hope if the author reads this, she’ll consider what I’ve said. Not every inquisitive person is simply being pointlessly rude. Some of us want to improve our quality of life.

          • You are more then allowed to ask a doctor if you would be a good fit for a service dog. And if they say yes ask if they would give you a letter (for airline’s and trainers). Most dovtors would rather a dog then excessive medications. Trainers generally require proof of dissabililty and like my issues they are not seen easily. Its always something to at least talk to your doctor about.

      • Wonderful information! I found your article while looking for something I can print off to give to people who ask about my service dog. I appreciate that people love her and think she’s as great as I think she is, but it gets really tiring when I am asked questions all the time. People’s ignorance never stops amazing me. Have the t-shirts and cards been created yet? I’d love to purchase some!

      • You really should consider the impact of creating cards or shirts like this. They are a poor illusion of informing others while in reality they are shouting a negative view of people with service animals.

        If I saw someone flashing a shirt around like this I most certainly would not think of them as a respectful person. It is pretty equivalent to sporting a shirt that says “Back off! We don’t like interacting with others”. Most of all I would led to think “anythingispawsable” is a spiteful group of Service Dog handlers. I hope that’s not true.

    • I second that! I think T-shirts would be GREAT when we are out with our SD’s !! Maybe a few “uninformed” people would get the “idea” and quit showing their, ah-hem, ignorance!

  1. We have a service dog for my son who is in a wheelchair and has epilepsy. I am soooo wanting to get a T-Shirt with #4 on it. Honestly, I tried to be an advocate for Saint Francis Service Dogs, but some days I just want to buy some milk and go home!

  2. Hugely disappointed by the attitudes promoted in this piece – one aspect of hearing dogs is actually promoting connections with people, and yes, you are welcome to engage with me or my animal if you see me out and about.

    • Patrick,

      We’re not trying to say Service Dog handlers should be asocial or rude. Quite to the contrary. But when you’ve been stopped for the 15th time by the 17th person you’ve walked past, it can be tiring.

      Most Service Dog handlers are excellent ambassadors and educators, but sometimes, it’s welcome to just be able to quickly dart into a store, get what you came for and get out with minimal fuss and delays.

      • I think that you all are doing a fine job. It seems that sometimes we have to over-stress certain issues just to get people to do the minimum. I know for me it is very distracting when I am trying to cross a street and listen to the flow of traffic to make sure it is safe to cross, when someone is talking to me or trying to pet my dog….and the same is true when I am trying to manuever around a store or walking a sidewalk. Yes, my dog is trained to be Socialable but that merely means that he is well adjusted to be in any enviroment and not
        act up or mis-behave. Sure, I have met and made some new friends since I got my dog as he attracks people (He is a guide dog that happens to be a Boxer and most people have never seen a Boxer as a Service Dog) but I want my dog to continue to be a good working dog and it was stressed at the Guide Dog School where I got him how disruptive it can be to have people trying to pet him while he was working as it confuses them and then they end up eventually not working or not being trusted to do their job which can put me in danger. People are rude out there and that is just the way that it is, but I also try to use that time to help educate people so they will know how to respond or act the next time they see a service dog. I love my guide dog and he is an excellent worker and I would hate to have to return him back to the School simply because I caved into people’s desire to want to pet him and he stopped working for me. We had a lady at the School when I was there to get my dog who had to bring her dog back for a re-train. She ended up having to get a different dog altogether as she had allowed her dog to do everything the trainer had told her not to do such as get on the bed, get on the couch, allowing people to touch and play with it and treating the dog like a pet and it ruined the dog as he could no longer be trusted to do the job for which he was professionally trained to do. As for me, I think that I will listen to my Instructor. Doesn’t mean that I am anti-social….just protective of my highly trained Guide Dog and I want to keep him that way.

      • I agree with Kea though. I don’t mind people interacting with us. However that doesn’t happen. I have people that only ask about my dog and don’t even ask my name or people who think if I let them pet him once they are entightled to do it again.

    • Thanks Patrick! You’re thoughts on this are very appreciated. My husband and I love dogs and it’s natural to want to give them a little pet. I find it very rude for someone to tell you not to touch their dog, it is also cruel to the dog as they thrive on loving attention. I just feel these dogs are being deprived when their owners act this way.

      • If some asks you not to touch them, do you still touch the person?

        I like kids. I teach at a pre-K to 8th grade school. I get hugs from many students everyday, but I wouldn’t go up to every small child I saw and give them a hug or engage them in conversation. If their parents told me not to talk to their child, I would feel bad about doing it and would apologize to the person.

        I also wouldn’t try to distract a medical professional while they were monitoring someone’s vitals. Or distract security from monitoring their job site, no matter how attractive or interesting I think they are.

        If someone is doing their job and you distract them, you can get them fired. If you distract a service dog, you could place someone’s life in danger.

        A couple of friends have service dogs. It kind of kills me not to be able to say hi to the dog, but I understand why I can’t pet them.

        • Dogs unlike children who get guaranteed attention, need love shown to them. The correlation is not there. And the OP of this post comes off as a cunt. My dog is my service dog, I allow her to be pet because she LIKEs to be pet, What would it hurt? I’m not a prick using my dogs position as my service dog as an excuse to be a cunt to someone trying to be friendly.

      • what a lot of bologna – service dogs who are focusing on their handler to alert for seizures need to not be distracted. This cannot be stressed enough. This is NOT A MATTER OF BEING UNFRIENDLY – THIS IS THE WHOLE POINT HERE – we are NOT being UNFRIENDLY – we are people. we are people with LIFE THREATENING disabilities – that is why we have a service dog with us. not all people with a service dog have life threatening disabilities. perhaps people whose disabilites are not life threatening would like to have a patch that says – PET ME, I’M FRIENDLY.

        something like that as opposed to so unkindly saying that other disabled service dog teams are being “unfriendly” or “unkind”, even “cruel” or “mean.”

        we need to stick together, at least not be mean to one another. If this doesn’t suit your particular disability, please move along – it is extremely valid for mine and much needed.

        some disabled people are barely able to go out in public due to private disabilities and respect says, they be allowed to do so without being harrassed. It can become that way to some people who need to feel safe – need to more than most disabled people do. Have some compassion people. A specific physical disability is not the same as some others.

      • Helen Langston’s comment is actually a troll, right? I mean, how could someone read these very clear, simple, and politely phrased facts about what it’s like to be with a service dog in public, and still say something like: “I find it very rude for someone to tell you not to touch their dog.” You typed the correct response yourself Helen: It is ***THEIR*** dog! THEIR PRIVATE PROPERTY! What gives anyone the RIGHT to intrude upon another person’s private space, personal time, or their private property when they enter a public facility like a grocery store? Would you go around touching people’s children, or interrupting a parent’s shopping activity because “I just love kids, you absolutely MUST devote your time to fulfilling my personal selfish desire to talk to and play with your child (or service dog), no matter how busy you are or how private you are or how stressful it may be for you or your child or your service dog to be assailed by strangers for reasons you know nothing about (and which are none of your darned business anyway). My God! What happened to people’s most basic right to privacy? Okay Troll Helen, you succeeded in baiting me. Happy now?

    • I was forwarded this link by a family member who is attempting to train her grown dog on her own and wanted me to educate my children based on points in this article. Personally I think she with her dog fall under point #5 but I will offer her nothing but support. Regardless she really should not have shared this because as Patrick pointed out the attitudes are disappointing.

      I do not have close contact with anyone with a service animal but I feel like I didn’t need to be educated on them because I try to be sensitive and kind to everyone. Period! This is what I will teach my children. As I read this article I can’t help but think I’ll now be turned away from interacting with anyone with a service animal because I think they might be on the brink of exploding with rage.

      When it comes to educating my children, I most certainly wouldn’t use this article. If I did I would be tempted to teach them “Don’t talk to people with animals, they might blow up at you.” I understand that some people can be insensitive to the circumstance or another, but at the root of it I don’t think they are trying to be rude. We all are curious as humans and children are no exception. In fact they are the truest example of innocence and curiosity.

      I hope to soon forget this article entirely and go back to thinking of people with service animals as I do every other person: Someone who should be respected. People ask me about my children all the time in public. They even try to touch my baby. That’s not right. But rather than be harsh or rude I just see them as having their own difficulty with social interaction and I try to be kind to them.

      I hope readers here just stick to the golden rule and treat people who interact with you because of your service animal the way you want to be treated.

      • Fortunately, strangers who try to touch your baby aren’t likely to cause you physical harm with their ignorance. However, a distracted service animal can mean the difference between life and death for it’s handler.

        It *is* wrong to touch your infant. I remember when I was pregnant people used to put their hands on my belly. That was so invasive. I don’t understand where our how people got the idea that it’s okay to violate boundaries and personal space.

  3. . My niece has a service dog and I don’t think she’s so anti social as to not want anyone to touch, look at, talk to, or ask about her beautiful partner. Being stopped for questions is a risk we all run when we go somewhere with any animal, whether its doing a service or not. The animal is trained to focus on its human so it shouldn’t be distracted by noise or touch.
    Personal questions are out of line but should be handled on a personal basis; not everyone is reluctant to divulge their illness. These rules seem almost to encourage the public to avoid, almost ignore, someone with a disability who has a service dog. They don’t seem right to me.

    • Hear hear, Kandi! I really don’t like the way a self-appointed party has decided to dictate to the world at large how the public must interact with us as individuals, and depending on the role of the dog, many of these ‘facts’ are, in fact, just plain wrong!

  4. Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian and live in a small Canadian city, but most of the interactions we’ve had where folks do pet my Service Dog immediately apologize when they realize he wears a red vest. Also when people comment on how well behaved he is or beautiful he is I say “thank you”. I’ve only had one confrontational situation (with a bus driver) in all my time–he was confused because I didn’t “look blind”.
    I guess I would like to see the tone of the graphics to be more friendly rather than acerbic. I still think they are necessary though and a great idea.

    • Chloe,

      Most of the Service Dog handlers in America are polite, friendly people who enjoy talking about the differences their partners have made in their lives. However, it can be tiring to have to do so constantly. Additionally, access challenges and public interactions can be very difficult, even gristly, here. Many members of the public are poorly educated about what Service Dogs do, and society has conditioned them to feel as if they have the right to touch, talk to, play with or make noises at ANY dog they see, not just Service Dogs. It’s a far broader problem here than just with the Service Dog community, but we’re trying to help people see Service Dogs are different. Respect their space; respect their handler; respect their job; respect their access.

      • Its a dog not a fricken object i understand the life or death thing i do. But if someone touches your dog, they probably love animals and dont understand why we would train them to deal with our dissabilities even if they got breaks, they dont seem to have a choice and that is unfair to many people. I respect everyone that use service dogs, but seriously calm down and see why people feel like they need to give attention to an animal being forced by a human to walk around ***unless a person is confronting someone in an unsafe area like the street**

  5. I love this, but I want to clarify something you said.

    I use a wheelchair, and frequently people push it without asking first. More often if I am “in the way”, they will grab the handles and forcibly move me. Sometimes people will grab my chair and when my partner politely offers to push me, she is waved off or even told she can’t. I unilaterally inform them that touching my chair is tantamount to touching my body, and I alone get determine who gets to touch me.

    I’m not saying this is good or right, but I wanted to add this because you imply that everyone knows not to touch someone’s chair, and really, that’s not my reality.

    but like I said, great article!

    • Del,

      I can imagine that’s quite stressful! To be honest, I would have assumed people would be polite enough to say “excuse me.” I’m sorry that’s not the case. 🙁

      Thanks for chiming in!

    • Del, I truly understand how you feel about your chair and space. I’m a nurse that worked many years and now am disabled myself and have a very large service dog. When I cared for my client in a wheelchair he had CP and was unable to propel his chair, speak without a spell board, etc. It was normal and agitating to him that people would ask me questions that my client could very well answer. Even had a doctor ask me if he would like some toys to play with while we talked. My client with all his problems since birth, went to school and had a college degree in education!!! . The ER staff took his spell board away and asked him questions….so even the medical community doesn’t have a clue when it comes to disabled people.
      I get asked WHY would anyone need such a large service dog. My answer is because if she was a small dog and I fell on her someone would have to find her and it might not be pleasant. She is mobility trained to lift me out of bed and chairs and at times off the ground. I’m 62 and my dog and I go camping and sleep in a tent. A young friend sets up our tent and I share it with another older woman. We are part of a Native American drumming and singing group. I have been denied access because I didn’t have what campground owners think is papers for my dog and my medical records etc. I have been denied access to open field and vender booths and to go to eat. At one place I was told I couldn’t go to eat with everyone else. I was only allowed to have access by walking thru the wooded areas where I was hit in the face by trees and had to step over downed trees. I was made to kennel my dog because of her size…she might hurt a child or eat one… Or terrify a person afraid of dogs. She is an Irish Wolfhound and Great Pyronese mix and weighs 140 pounds. While kenneled she did bark…I was out of her sight. She had food and soda dumped on her thru the top of her kennel. Even wads of bubble gum.mashed in her fur. People try to feed her..I’m blessed that she doesn’t take food from anyone unless I take it first. She will take cookies from children when they put them in her face, but will drop then uneaten. If it’s a child we are traveling with she will take the cookie then wash the kids face with kisses. She also lets me know if one of those kids is missing. She will nudge me in the back to look into the crowd and count kids. In the evening she roams the camp site with all the kids and has play time while I sit by the fire with friends. If I had filed complaints with ADA for just last summer and got a monetary award I could have paid off over half of my mortgage.
      People need education about people with disabilities and their equipment and dogs. Business owners and event planners need to be given the ADA Laws when they get their business license and make sure it is visible.
      No excuses for ignorent and rude business owners and employees.

  6. There are places service dogs are not permitted … anywhere one’s business would be adversely affected or pose a threat, i.e., free-flying aviaries at zoos. Also, once you pass through the security line at airports, ADA law is no longer in effect. On airplanes, the captain has the final word on who flies on his aircraft. He can exclude a dog and handler and there’s not thing one anyone can do about it. … Yeah, it can be a pain to have to stop and listen to stories about every dog a person has ever had but, like it or not, a service dog will attract attention. My lead trainer had a great solution to this … if you don’t want people to bother you, get an ugly dog. 😉

  7. Some “mongrels” are service dogs, by the way. I don’t think there was any cause to use that as an obviously pejorative term. My service dog is a cross breed and is quite capable, thank you.

    • I’m sorry the term doesn’t sit well with you, but I had to call the imaginative, illustrative dog something, and “mongrel” isn’t a term most people apply to a dog they love. They call them mixed breeds, cross breeds, Heinz-57s, All-American Dogs or just “mutts.” Mongrel, in my experience, is usually applied in the vein of, “that flea-bitten mongrel!” I’ve almost never heard anyone tell another person, particularly about their Service Dog, that it’s a “mongrel.”

  8. Most of the article is great, but it’s simply not true that a service dog can go “anywhere in public people are allowed to frequent.” Most places, yes, but federal laws do allow for some exceptions. The most obvious is religious services, even if open to the public. The ADA specifically exempts churches and other religious bodies, as well as private clubs.

    Also, the dog may be excluded if her presence interferes with the essential nature of the business, such as a cat grooming salon that excludes all dogs to provide a stress free environment for the cat patrons. Tiger and lion sections of the zoo may exclude service dogs, along with walkthrough aviaries.

    Service dogs are allowed to the water’s edge at public pools, but not in the pool itself for hygiene reasons.

    Any area which requires humans to wear special safety equipment may be able to exclude service dogs, depending on the exact details. This can include safety harnesses. So in an amusement park, yes, but not usually on the roller coaster.

    Military property and Native American lands (including hotels and casinos) are not subject to the ADA and set their own policies.

    In medical offices and hospitals, any area which requires humans to take infection control measures such as scrub downs or wearing gloves and masks may be able to exclude a service dog, including visiting in the ICU, it just depends on the exact details of each situation. They may also be excluded from lockdown wards in some cases.

    The one that seems to most often get in the news is people who mistakenly believe they have a federally protected right to attend church services, a wedding, or even just go into a church to pick up a child from religious school, but there is no federal law that enforces access rights in these situations.

    So most situations, yes, but not all. The ADA infoline can answer any specific questions.

    http://www.ada.gov/infoline.htm

    • Robin,

      Thank you very much for your excellent explanations and more in-depth information! We appreciate it. The exceptions to the law concerning access do exist and you’re quite right — people (specifically handlers and trainers) do need to know about them. In our experience, though, when it comes to access challenges and the public, the problem is rarely the exceptions — it’s most often the places SDs need to be allowed to go.

      • Kea Grace,

        I see it happen both ways. Many people are surprised to learn that the ADA does not apply to military property or VA facilities. Both of these can and do ask for documentation on the dog’s training, something that’s not allowed in civilian hospitals. A recent law now requires VA facilities (but not military bases) to allow access to teams that graduated from ADI/IGDF programs, but it’s up to the individual facility administrator whether they’ll allow dogs from other programs or owner trained dogs. Several don’t.

        And for every restaurant employee mistakenly barring a legitimate service dog there’s probably at least one rental tenant or employee mistakenly bringing in a service dog without getting prior approval as a reasonable accommodation.

        I personally just think the catchphrase of “the dog can go anywhere you go” confuses a lot of people. That’s just not how the laws are written. Longterm housing, workplace situations, and many school situations do require that you provide proof of the dog’s training and proof of disability before access is agreed to. For that matter so does travel to Hawaii.

        And of course if you do get in a denial situation and it goes to court, you’ll have to provide the judge with all the documented details.

        If people understood from the beginning that there would be situations where they need documentation, they could follow IAADP guidelines and keep detailed training logs, make videos, and get trainer letters organized before they ever need them. Not having to show papers when you’re out shopping is a convenience. But it’s not the same thing as saying no one can ever ask for documentation.

        As always, the ADA infoline is a good place to start for any specific questions. They can direct you to another agency if necessary.

      • Australia is slightly different. Our dogs can go everywhere except the Intensive Care Unit of a Hospital, commercial kitchens and operating theatres. Its interesting about walk thru aviaries – I will have to check on that as that is not specified in our laws. I am glad I found this site – I look forward to you getting some of these as cards 🙂

    • ‘I’ve had my Guide Dog for about seven months now and I have had absolutely no problem taking him anywhere as far as businesses go. I have been approached many time with people wanting to take pictures, pet him or whatever but as far as being allowed in a place….my dog has gone everywhere with me, even to a couple of Churches. I’ve been in McDonalds, Burger King, nice eating establishments, the bank, grocery store, Doctors, Hospital and have never had a problem. I even went with my fellowship to take a meeting into the State Prison and they told me that they couldn’t keep me from bringing my Guide Dog into the facility as it was Federal Law and that trumped State Law and they also were very impressed with him.
      I must say that I am proud when people comment about my dog and his abilities, behavior and how handsome he is but at the same time I also get annoyed as it ends up taking so long to do anything such as shopping or anything else. It’s like, as soon as you put the harness on him, people come out of the woodwork to pay attention to him. It’s really wierd how worked up people get as if they have never seen a working or service dog. I’ve actually told people not to pet him (even tho he has a “No Pet” sign on his harness) and they will try to sneekingly grap a quick pet thinking I don’t know – but I can almost always tell because he starts to get fidgity on me. It really nerves me when they try to pull one over on me and try to pet him after being asked not to do so. He will be on a sit/stay or a down/stay and they say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know he was working as he was just sitting/laying there.” I tell them that when I step out of my front door with him……..he is working whether he has a leash on or not or a harness on or not.

  9. I usually don’t have too much trouble with access as I keep a copy of ADA service dog business brief to show. My biggest problem comes in when people grab her leash and tell me “I’ll hold her for you.”. If I tell them its ok, I can do it, They get huffy and walk off. Or they try to give her commands to alert. My next dog will be trained by myself (I have trained competition obedience). But will be foreign or made up language! Maybe that will be a good cure. Police and military train that way.

  10. This is so well written, thank you! We do a blog (www.casperthefriendlydane.com) and are trying to educate about service dogs as well. We recently had an instagram run in with @thefrenchduke who is suddenly claiming that the dog is a “registered” service dog after I made a comment about how the dog should not be in Target (based on a photo posted). I would LOVE to share this with them, but now I am blocked from their feed because they know they have been caught as a fraud. Oh well.
    Thank you for spreading the word as well…and doing it so much better than we can.

  11. I enjoyed your article and believe you provided good information with one exception. Service dogs have no rights. The rights belong to the person with the disability. They may bring the dog where they go.

  12. Ms Grace, I just discovered your site from a reference on the VETERAN TRAVELER blog. I plan to follow you, as you appear to have a nice site. I have a question: May I have permission to print & hand out this post to the public? I would of course, have your name & date of copyright, and would include a link to your home page. I do have other brochures and cards about Dakota being a Psychiatric Service Dog, and proper SD Etiquette. But those always seem to lead the person to ask even MORE questions! That’s why I like this post: I can just hand them a copy, say ‘Good Day’ and move on without engaging. A lot of the time I don’t mind answering a seriously curious person’s questions about my “invisible disabilities”, and what Dakota does. But like you said above, sometimes I just want milk and bread: 5 mins in a store always turns into more than 30mins. Educating the public is critically important, but sometimes my head is in the wrong place & I just can’t do it…

  13. its a nice article.. BUT.. SDs are NOT allowed EVERYWHERE!
    they are NOT allowed in sterile areas in hospitals or kitchens.. plus the whole new VA law, where they “have” to be certified.

    I am a trainer and have been for 30 years.. NOT CERT’ED.. and very happy NOT to be!

  14. You’re right! Most people don’t think that Anxiety disorders count and or OCD. Just because a person cannot physically see what’s wrong with you they shouldn’t say that you “don’t need a service dog”.

  15. Thank you so much for this! I am a dogmom, and in general try to say hello to any dog I meet. I’m pretty sure I have violated most of these rules because of my awe of service dogs. Thank you for reminding me that I need to let the dog do his job, and let the human have some uninterrupted time in public! This is a great site for educating the general public about service dogs and their teammates.

  16. This post is so vehemently and aggressively written. I really do feel offended by the implication that simple curiosity equals personal attack. Maybe instead of being such a stuck-up, arrogant tool, you should try to be polite and actually engage in conversation once in a while. It’ll probably help whatever crippling mental disorder you suffer from that requires a mass-farmed animal to lead you around.

    • Ok, Anonymous Andy with the hateful and aggressively written judgment. I guess you have to wear a mask when spewing unwarranted venom and bile at the disabled.

    • It seems to me that most of the negative comments about this article are from folks who believe their desires trump the rights of everyone else. The folks who say “I love dogs (a desire) so I should be allowed to pet every dog I see,” seem to think people who don’t like being accosted by strangers are “stuck up.” I’m sure there are plenty of gregarious folks with disabilities who love talking about their service dog 30 or 40 times a day. But that’s individual temperament: some like it, some don’t. Neither is right or wrong, they just “are”. My preferences are clear in the bright red DO NOT PET and DO NOT DISTRACT signs on my service dog’s vest.

      When I was able to go out in public without a service dog, my lack of eye contact, neutral facial expression, withdrawn body language, and vague smile or nod as I move on without responding to the efforts of strangers to engage me in conversation, were usually sufficient and POLITE ways of letting people know I’m not a social butterfly when it comes to strangers.

      Because I cannot leave home with a service dog now, I have lost that right? Typical Catch 22: I can’t bear interactions with strangers, I can’t leave home without a service dog, a service dog GUARANTEES strangers are going to harass me everywhere I go.

      Everyone can judge others however they like – it’s *their* right. Just don’t expect me to give in to your self-centered demands that your desires have priority over my private property rights. Don’t expect me to care about how you judge my preference for minimal interactions with total strangers. And for goodness sakes be sure to remember how you are judging people here the next time YOU are offended by the harsh judgments of others about your own behaviors.

  17. “Flea – bitten mongrel” is a bit harsh, which (unintentionally) perpetuates the myth that only “purebreds” make good service/support partners. In reality, it’s the temperament of the dog as an individual and their ability to focus on a given task that matters. When trying to educate the general public, terminology is crucial. Referring to a service/support partner as a “piece of equipment” is probably not the best choice for the general dog – loving masses!

  18. Sorry but this article is written so harsh it look like the person feel she is above others, first most of my family members have services dogs, and they’re more than happy to answer questions about their dogs, second the insult towards mixed breed I do agree with both writers who found this article harsh & stuck up. I swear if all service dogs owners were like this lady I wouldn’t want it in my business and yes honey I can say not to you call the police and I simply explain I have nothing agaisnt the dog it’s this lady attitude and could possible affect the peace of my business so I suggest you get your nose out of your butt lady.

  19. Well then get a freaking cane or wheelchair service dogs going to be distracting and gosh you’re like the snobs of them all.

  20. I agree that this article was written like people showing an interest in service dogs are somehow personally attacking you and as though you are somehow more knowledgeable because you own one. I agree that service dogs should not be pet in public, but cry me a river on when people ask you about your dog. LIKE WHO DO THEY THINK THEY ARE WASTING MY TIME OMG?! I CAN TAKE MY DOG EVERYWHERE AND YOU HAVE TO DEAL WITH IT! I would hate to be your dog.

  21. Your post really does come off as a bit rude and arrogant at times. I understand you are just trying to educate people but you come off as a person who pretty much hates human interaction. Maybe you should relax.

  22. This article is not true. Hospitals do not have to allow service dogs if they can contaminate a patient, restaurants need to be sanitary and do not have to allow an animal near food prep or fresh food.
    There are thousands of jerks pretending their dog is a service animal so they can take it anywhere. In a rational world, you should be required to display a state license that proves your dog is a service animal and not just your pet that you want to impose on everyone else.

    • This is untrue, and the document you shared confirms it. It states:

      “When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.”

      Please re-read it: http://www.ada.gov/service_animals_2010.htm

  23. #8 is wrong, if the service dog fundamentally changes the nature of the program they can be excluded, there are very few situations in which this rule will apply(ie: operating rooms, clean rooms, and pet shelters where contact with outside animals is harmful to either the residents or the outside animal,) but it is still a rule nevertheless.

    #10 isn’t always true, in the case of a non-painful non-progressive disability such as Autism the service dog handler may not want to be “cured,” they may just want to remain the person they are and use a service dog to accommodate the difficulties they face. A person can enjoy working with their service dog and using a service dog in public without making their need for a service dog or their validity as a handler any less real.

    It’s a great article overall, but there are a few points that could use amending in order to make it clearly reflect current laws and to reflect the fact that their are a variety of different types of service dog handlers, all of which have different experience with and feelings towards being part of a service dog team.

  24. I was researching service dogs when I found this article and was disappointed by to find a phrase about talking to a little old lady’s cane. I think as people with disabilities we should stand together to fight stereotypical images and language. At 38, I am hardly an old lady but due to Ménière’s disease I require a cane. I too, have frustrations everyday facing people who do not realize the effects of their actions, just didn’t expect to find the same here

    • I’m sorry to hear about your difficulties with Ménière’s disease, Mandy. I’m 60 now, but had to start using a cane for balance when I was about your age (late 30s). I actually chuckled while visualizing a big ol’ 6-foot dog loving guy bending down with his hands on his knees (as they do when trying to talk to my SD), as he attempted to chat up the cane of a stereo-typically frail-looking and tiny 70-something woman. Maybe it’s one of those situations where pixels just can’t hit the funny bone every time the way verbal humor can, but I thought it was a deliberate (and successful) attempt by the author to introduce a bit of levity (through the use of exaggeration) into a conversation that could easily become too tense and serious.

  25. The main points are fine if that’s all you read, but the overall tone of this article is very negative. I get that people don’t want to be stopped every 5 minutes and asked the same questions over and over, but as a member of the general public, I wouldn’t just approach a stranger or strange dog (working or not). I find it off-putting to be told to essentially stay away at all costs, never ask a question (even politely) or even stand near someone who has a dog because if something happens to the handler because the dog is distracted by me going about my business that it would be MY fault. There’s a difference between ignorance and curiosity and it’s possible to educate the general public without insulting them and coming off as self-righteous.

  26. I don’t understand how the comments of, hating ignorance, and hating questions, could be in the same statement. The only way to get rid of ignorance is by asking questions. To say both of these Things is contradicting

    • When have people living with disabilities ever been expected to be the Voice Of Education regarding how difficult their lives are? Aren’t they struggling enough just trying to get through what other people consider an “ordinary day”? My gosh! Google it if you have questions or are curious about the use of service dogs. If a dog is wearing a patch that says “Pet Me I’m Friendly”, then go for it! If they’re wearing a patch that says, “DO NOT PET” or “DO NOT DISTRACT”, the disabled handler obviously does not wish to be your unpaid private tutor.

  27. I went to the supermarket with my baby and she was looking at a service dog , she was fascinated with the dog and kept pointing at him and talking to him. I didn’t let her touch the dog when he passed by next to us, and I just looked at the owner to sympathize with her; then the lady gave me a look that made me feel that I was doing something very wrong. After reading this article I now understand that my baby was distracting her dog and we should completely ignore him. Thanks for the info!

  28. I think you’ve produced some really interesting points about pet’s health & food. Not too many people would truly think about this the way you just did. I’m seriously impressed that there’s so considerably about this topic that’s been uncovered and you did it so properly, with so very much class. I am also using this process and purchased the products from “Myunikorn.com” for my puppy. Thanks for sharing

  29. Had a “service dog” come in to my business today. The owner let it loose and proceded to run around greeting customers and jumping on them and my counter. Why can I not request that someone present a form of identification certifying federal exemption before allowing an animal into my business? Therapy animals do not have the same rights as service animals, yet some claim that their dog is a service dog when it clearly is not. There needs to be accountability and documentation to protect the reputation of true service animals.

    • Each program has their own standards, but generally speaking, yes. If the degree of hearing loss is enough to negatively impact quality of life or safety, and a task trained dog can help mitigate those negative effects, then a person with hearing loss can be partnered with a hearing dog.

      • Thanks! Your answer helped me!!! And, BTW, can someone own a hearing dog, even thought that person uses auditive prothesis to mitigate her profound hearing loss?

  30. I was kind of upset reading the part where you wrote not to compare your service dog to a fake service dog that’s is a “mongrel” when it isn’t even that dogs fault that their human decided to put on a fake service dog vest.

    Other than that your article if very insightful.

    • Thanks for chiming in, Lauren. Upon reflection, that definitely could have been worded better and in a way that would be more informative and not destructive. We’ll be certain to do so in the future.

  31. I completely agree with this article, although I do not own a service dog myself. I do have a question though. I have severe allergies to basically any animal with hair, which includes dogs. So say if someone with a service dog were to sit down next to me or something, would they be offended if I moved, or asked them to move because of the allergy? I know that I could move of course, but say that situation wouldn’t be optional, what would be a good way to go about asking them to switch seats/go to another area? I know they need that dog just as much as I need my epi, and we both have a right to be there despite the disabilities we may have, so what’s really fair?

    • I just had this happen to me tonight at a theater (where I generally work, but was an audience member tonight). My dog and I were sitting in literally the back row because there was space for my dog to lie without anyone tripping over her if they had to exit the aisle. This guy comes up to me and says his wife is severely allergic to dogs, and it’s expensive to go to the hospital if she has an allergy attack. Which a) that sucks to have a dog allergy, and b) agreed on the hospital situation. But I told him that my dog is a service dog and can legally be there. He persisted in telling me the details of what happens when his wife reacts to dogs, which…okay? Yeah, that’s a not-fun situation. But he never said what he wanted from me (other than the implication that my dog not be there at all). If he had politely come up and said “Hey, we’re sitting in these seats and my wife has a severe dog allergy. It would be helpful for us if X, Y, and Z could happen. Would you be able to work with us to figure this out?” I would have been happy to help. However, he came across as very accusatory and seemed to just want me and my dog out of there, so I wasn’t particularly inclined to feel helpful. I did check with a friend at ticketing who said she’d be happy to reseat them across the theater from me if they asked (they didn’t), but my dog and I should stay where we were because legally we could be there, and that was the best location for us (so my dog had room to lie and wasn’t blocking an aisle or exit). The husband came up to me several times to describe anaphylaxis to me, which, um, okay? Not helpful though. (Also ironic, because one of my service dog’s tasks is to alert me to my own allergy attacks and anaphylaxis, so I’m super familiar with what anaphylaxis is like.) I would not have been offended if they had moved (or if anyone else I encountered moved to a different seat because of a dog allergy). But that should be on the person with the dog allergy, not the person with the service dog, because as a disabled person with an SD there are only so many places my dog and I can comfortably fit/sit in a theater setting (especially depending what mobility equipment I’m using at the time and the layout of the theater or other building/enclosed space). It would also have been helpful to me if this guy had been more advocating for his wife, instead of accusatory/defensive about me and my SD being there. I’m way more inclined to work with someone to figure out a solution if they approach me in a polite manner and advocate for themselves/their person, instead of using a defensive/accusatory manner. I did consider offering benadryl, or making sure they had epipens on them (but the latter seemed maybe too morbid?), but ultimately it’s their job to carry appropriate rescue medications with them, as well as not assume that every place they go in public is going to be dog-free.

      So, my advice is to communicate your issue *politely* to the person with the service dog and present some potential solutions that would be helpful for you (this guy told me nothing in terms of what would be helpful for his wife, so other than wait for them to exit before me, I did nothing differently). Be prepared that they might get defensive if they think you’re questioning their right to be their with their medical equipment (the dog), because we get that a lot and it’s frustrating and tiring for us to deal with constant challenges to our presence. Offer the SD handler solutions that might be helpful or work well for all involved, or go to someone in charge (an usher/ticketing at a theater; a flight attendant on a plane, etc) and ask if they have a good solution that would work for everyone. Most airlines and theaters will be happy to help you figure out a better seating arrangement or some other arrangement that works. And either way, carry your rescue meds and epipens with you; even if you’re going to a place dogs aren’t usually allowed…SDs are allowed most of those places and so you can still encounter dogs in places that you don’t usually see dogs in and therefore might think of as “safe.” I don’t mind relocating myself either, as long there’s an accessible space for me to relocate to, and as long as it’s brought up politely and acknowledges me and my dog’s right to be there. If I sat down in a restaurant and someone who’s halfway through their meal leaned over and said they’re really allergic to dogs, and would it be possible for me to sit at that other booth across the room so we are both able to eat there and everyone can stay safe, I’d be happy to do so. I don’t want you to go into anaphylaxis either!

      Also, don’t assume that the SD handler doesn’t know what anaphylaxis is like (as this guy did tonight…I was starting to roll my eyes by the end). The SD handler might actually be a great ally for you. My dog alerts me to allergy attacks and anaphylaxis attacks because my O2 levels can drop in seconds. I’m very familiar with anaphylaxis and all it entails (and would have been happy to explain this to the guy, had he let me get in a word edgewise). Meanwhile, my dog alerted three times during the course of the show we were at, and I medicated based on her alerts; woman with severe dog allergy appeared to survive just fine. If she had had an allergic reaction though, I would have been right over there offering benadryl and an epipen if she needed it, because both I and my dog carry multiple doses of those on us at all times.

      Tl;dr: Politely communicate and advocate for your needs while acknowledging the needs and rights of the SD team. Utilize people in authority positions to help resolve any potential issues or conflicts ASAP so that everyone is happy and healthy and safe. Carry appropriate meds in case you run into a SD out in the wilds of Target or wherever. Politely ask questions if you desire more information about my dog (e.g. her breed, when she was last bathed) and I’ll be happy to tell you.

  32. When I had my guidedog, it was family more than strangers that caused me the most problems. Sure, strangers pet the dog despite my “Working dog, please don’t pet” sign, and that annoyed me a great deal. Children however I tended to let pet once I put the dog in a sit stay and took off her harness. Having read the article and comments, I really think many people don’t understand that we don’t mind questions or comments most of the time, but sometimes it feels like everyone’s in your personal business. Also, would you go pet a police dog without asking first? I’ve had people talking to my dog while we’re crossing busy streets, and it does distract them from their work. That dog is my eyes. Regarding the last comment about allergies, to my knowledge that’s never been an issue with my dog, but if it were, I would think that if whoever was there first would have a better claim on that spot. I can’t think of a situation where moving at all wasn’t possible.

  33. This article is informative if not slightly curt, I have never petted/talked to a service dog and now understand why you definitely shouldn’t, Despite never doing it I have wondered why you can’t if the owner is perhaps standing in a que or something.

    As an animal lover though I can say that people are so in awe of the service dogs due to the fact that they are so well behaved and have such important jobs. We are fascinated by dolphins and chimpanzees etc as there’s something magical about an animal being super smart and being able to take on human tasks. I believe I speak for those people who are asking lots of questions and perhaps holding you up when you just trying to buy milk that their not doing it from a bad place but one of interest and awe. I can also honestly say anyone saying they want a service dog are also not in anyway trying to minimise the daily struggle you face or trying to say that it’s worth it and a trade off they would choose but people dont think straight when faced with a cute animal especially one that is so clever and well trained, they just say the first thing that pops into their head. I’ve been to zoos and claimed I want a zebra/giraffe/monkey etc. Of course in reality I wouldn’t really but people just get gooey. Please don’t be offended by anyone saying that. Likewise people asking about your disability generally is just interested again from a good and inquisitive place, more so I suppose if it’s not obvious. Humans are just nosey creatures.

    That’s said I can understand how it can get a bit much if your just trying to pop somewhere quickly or just having a bad day in general.

  34. Wonderful information! I found your article while looking for something I can print off to give to people who ask about my service dog. I appreciate that people love her and think she’s as great as I think she is, but it gets really tiring when I am asked questions all the time. People’s ignorance never stops amazing me. Have the t-shirts and cards been created yet? I’d love to purchase some!

  35. You seem very sanctimonious about your dog. Sometimes people are just friendly and interested.

    Get off your high horse, err…dog

  36. Hello. This is a great post. However number eight is not technically correct. The dog does not have rights, the handler does. It might sound like I am quibbling, but there is a distinction. It is because of your rights as a handler that you are allowed legally to take your service animal into public facilities. I am a guide dog user myself and I can agree with a lot of what is posted here. Don’t let the negative comments detract from what you said.

    • You’re quite right. The access rights of the person with a disability are protected under law, and the Service Dog falls under that umbrella. A Service Dog on their own, without their handler, regardless of training, has zero public access rights. Even a person who knows how to properly handle the dog, but who is not partnered with the Service Dog and who does not have a disability, cannot work the dog in public. Great point; thanks for chiming in.

  37. So service dogs are allowed on rollercoasters, in an MRI machine room, on the ice at a skating rink, at an MAMA match, at a shooting range, at a cat adoption event, at a fireworks display, in a maternity ward, on a prison your, on a jet ski, in a group therapy session for people afraid of dogs, at a strip club, at a heavy metal concert…there are all sorts of places those dogs probably shouldn’t be.

  38. I found your tone rather rude- don’t speak for people if you’re going to just sound snippy and impatient. If you educate people who don’t know better it gets better. Not if you’re just as rude as you feel they are. What’s wrong with you- bitter much?

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