Service Dog etiquette

Service Dog Etiquette

Yes, there is such a thing as service dog etiquette. Service Dog handlers have every right to be treated equally to any other citizen. However, this does not mean that they can do whatever they please. There are things they are expected to do as well. For instance, always have your dog do his business before entering any establishment preferably away from the front of the building, always have bags to pick up after your dog, keep your dog well-groomed, do not allow your dog to do things they shouldn’t, keep your dog’s training up, etc.

Service dogs are not machines, they will have bad days. When this happens, be responsible and correct your dog on his misbehavior. These are just a few of the things included in a service dog handler’s responsibilities. K9s Serving Vets will assist clients with learning and following service dog etiquette.

Service Dog Etiquette for Handlers

  • DO keep your dog well-groomed
  • DO always have dog waste bags (in a purse, car, pockets, dog vest pouch)
  • DO always have water/water dish (collapsible ones are great), food/treats in your vehicle or your service dog’s vest
  • DO “toilet” your dog before entering a place of business (away from the front of the business when possible)
  • DO keep your dog current on vaccines, heartworm, and flea and tick preventatives
  • DO maintain control of your dog and give a correction if he or she makes a mistake
  • DO be aware of your surroundings (oncoming cars in parking lots, other dogs, children, etc.)
  • DO keep your dog safe
  • DO know your rights AND your responsibilities
  • DO remember that your behavior is the impression the community will associate with other service dogs

Service Dog Etiquette for the Community

  • DO NOT pet the dog without asking and don’t get angry if the answer is “no”
  • DO NOT ask to pet a guide dog
  • DO NOT disturb the dog by cooing, talking to, clapping, making kissing noises, barking, etc
  • DO NOT offer the dog food
  • DO NOT give the dog commands
  • DO NOT stare at the handler or the dog
  • DO NOT allow your children to approach or disturb the dog
  • DO NOT ask the handler invasive questions (What’s wrong with you? Why do you need a service dog?)
  • DO NOT tell the handler to get out or make derogatory comments
  • DO NOT judge because you don’t know another person’s situation
  • DO NOT stare…..and DO NOT chase a service dog team through a store for a glimpse at the dog

Service Dog Etiquette and Laws for Businesses

Many businesses are confused on their responsibilities and their rights regarding customers patronizing their establishments with service dogs. That confusion has been compounded by customers entering these places of business with emotional support animals. Under the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.  The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability. Businesses are legally allowed to ask TWO questions of patrons with service dogs.

  1. Is the dog a service dog?
  2. What tasks does the dog perform?

Due to the fact that Emotional Support Animals are not required to undergo any training whatsoever and do not perform a task, businesses are NOT obligated to allow the owners entry and in fact it can be harmful to true service dog teams as well as humans. There have been many incidents where an Emotional Support Animal has attacked a true service dog which caused the dog to be retired, injured or worse. This can be devasting to a service dog handler.

It helps everyone when businesses know both their responsibilities AND their rights regarding service dogs. Please click the following link to the American with Disabilities Act website for answers to frequently asked questions by business owners.

About Us

As the liaison between Veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs and service dog training organizations, we empower Veterans by helping them partner with service dogs to transform their lives.


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Triangle, VA 22172
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