We've all seen a Service or Assistance Dog walking around a store or restaurant wearing a vest or jacket. Most people assume all Service Dogs wear vests, but that's not true. Federal law doesn't even require Service Dogs to wear a vest and yet, almost all of them do. Keep reading to find out why! Service Dog Vests For Identification First and foremost, most Service Dogs wear a vest for identification purposes. A Service Dog's vest is chock full of information. Each team has different needs, so vests are often unique, but common information includes: Where the dog comes from, if they're program trained ("Four Paws For Ability") Any sponsors, if the team fundraised for the Service Dog Dog's name, if the handler feels like sharing Type of Service Dog ("Medical Assistance Dog") Service Dog Vests For Function Many teams use their Service Dog's vest to carry important documentation or vaccinations records, medication, or husbandry items like cleanup bags or treats. Allergen Alert Dog teams often have an epi-pen or other lifesaving medication in a pouch. Mobility teams often have vests that allow forward pulling momentum assistance or counterbalance. Service Dog Vests For Communication Most Service Dog vests communicate valuable, important, or helpful information. Many handlers, especially those who are nonverbal or who have social anxiety, rely on their patches to communicate for them. Most teams find that patches with legal information on them reduce access challenges. Type of interactions with the dog allowed ("No Talk, No Touch, No Eye Contact") Legal rights ("Access Required by Federal Law") Rules or guidelines for emergency interactions ("In Event of Emergency, Do Not Separate Dog From Handler") Anything else the handler or program deems necessary Instructions for assisting handler ("Epipen in Pouch") Service Dog Vests For Self-Expression Service Dog vests can be custom-made or off the shelf. They're available in thousands of colors, color combinations, patterns, designs, and fits. There's a limitless number of patches, including fandom or themed Service Dog patches. Lots of teams, especially owner-trainer Service Dog teams, value unique, funny, or quippy patches. Some collect patches that say things like, "I'm a Service Dog, not a magical unicorn!" or "I'm a Patronus." A Service Dog's vest offers a great avenue for self-expression. Some teams have several vests for a variety of purposes.
While federal law doesn't mandate that Service Dogs wear any kind of gear or identification, most Service Dogs have some kind of vest, jacket or harness. Sometimes, the gear is for identification only and at other times, like in the case of a brace dog or a Service Dog who carries medical equipment, the gear is utilized during the dog's work. There are too many types of Service Dog harnesses and vests to mention them all, but here are 5 of the most common items!
Service Dog gear is getting an upgrade! The FIDO Vest is wearable technology for all types of working dogs, but the implications for Service Dog teams is huge. Standing for “Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations,” the FIDO Vest is designed to allow Service Dogs, detector K9s, Search and Rescue K9s and other working dogs to communicate with their handler, emergency contacts or 911, depending on the needs of the team.