Fresh from the ECAD Blog

Service Dogs play an indispensable role in the lives of many individuals with disabilities, helping them navigate the world and performing tasks. 

Despite the growing prevalence of these amazing canines, many people need clarification on the proper etiquette around these dogs in public spaces. 


Generally, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), businesses and organizations that serve the public must allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals into all areas of the facility where customers are typically allowed. This federal law applies to all businesses open to the public, including restaurants, hotels, taxis and shuttles, grocery and department stores, hospitals and medical offices, theaters, health clubs, parks, and zoos.

Whether you’re a business owner, a pet lover, or a passerby, you’ll likely encounter a Service Dog in a public space. Continue reading to understand how to interact with Service Dogs appropriately. 


Understanding the Role of Service Dogs


Before delving into the rules of engagement, it’s essential to understand what Service Dogs do and who they assist. The ADA defines a Service Dog as “any dog individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of people with disabilities.” Disabilities can include physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disabilities.

Service Dogs differ from emotional support animals or therapy dogs, which do not qualify as service animals under the ADA. Although Service Dogs can and do provide companionship and emotional comfort, they are trained to provide assistance related to a person’s disability. For example, Service Dogs perform tasks like alerting a deaf person, pulling a wheelchair, or calming someone with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack.


Respecting Service Dogs: The Dos

Understand That a Service Dog Is Not a Pet

Yes, they’re cute and loveable, but Service Dogs undergo rigorous training to assist their handlers, and they’re considered working dogs. Respecting their space allows them to remain focused on their job.


Respect the Handler’s Privacy

Although you might be curious about a person’s disability or the dog’s role, respecting their privacy is essential. Asking intrusive questions can be considered disrespectful and might even be illegal.


Respecting Service Dogs: The Don’ts


Assume All Service Dogs Wear Vests or Other Identification


While some Service Dogs wear vests or harnesses for easy identification, the ADA does not require Service Dogs to wear a vest, ID tag, a specific harness, or documentation.


Pet Service Dogs Without Permission


It might be tempting to pet a Service Dog, but asking its handler for permission first is critical. Be aware that a handler may decline since the dog is on duty.


Feed Service Dogs


Feeding a Service Dog could disrupt its schedule and focus. The handler is responsible for feeding their Service Dog.

Understanding the correct etiquette around Service Dogs ensures their well-being and effectiveness and shows respect for their handlers who rely on them. However, interacting appropriately in public spaces isn’t just about respect — it’s about fostering an inclusive society where individuals with disabilities can navigate the world more easily. Following these dos and don’ts, you’re helping create a more understanding and compassionate world for everyone.

If you found this article informative and helpful, please consider sharing it. More awareness about Service Dogs and the correct etiquette around them will benefit everyone in public spaces.


How To Obtain a Service Dog 


Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD) breed Service Dogs and train them as puppies. By the time they’re nine months, they know several commands. They then undergo extensive training for 18 to 24 months before they are matched with someone. 

Each person's final training is individualized once a potential match has been identified. When a client arrives for team training, the dog has had up to 1,500 hours of training and socialization. If you or a loved one could benefit from a Service Dog, contact Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities to learn more or apply for a Service Dog.


Help Us Transform the Lives of People Living With Disabilities


Service Dogs can significantly impact the lives of people living with disabilities. From physical assistance to emotional support, they can provide the help needed to live independently and confidently. Having a Service Dog by your side means you can enjoy a better quality of life. 


Everyone can take part in helping people with disabilities with Service Dogs. Support us with a donation, bequest, planned giving, contributions to our wish list, or create a fundraiser. Your support can change someone’s life.