What You Need to Know About Service Dogs

Service dogs – how to have good manners around them, what they do, what rights disabled people have when using service dogs.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
5-minute read
Episode #104

If you’re afraid of dogs, you can ask the customer to position the dog away from you, or have someone else wait on the person. What you can’t do is shunt a disabled customer and his polite service dog off to a distant corner, or charge them special fees, or, you know, generally make a rude jerk of yourself. By the way, it doesn’t matter if your local health department bans dogs, because the right of access is granted by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA is a federal civil rights law and it preempts state laws and local ordinances.  (States and localities are free to provide for greater access rights, though.)

How Should You Behave Around Service Dogs?

[[AdMiddle]As for us non-business-owning, non-service-dog-using types, everybody pay attention, because  here’s the great big top-of-the-list rule for how to act when you spot a service dog. Assume the dog is working unless the human tells you otherwise, and don’t glom on. No handling the at-work service dog, no making kissy noises at the doggie, no giving the nice doggie a biscuit, no sending your Pet Zippy to visit Service Dogalini, no matter how well you think they’d get along.

Also, please remember that the service dog has a human attached to her leash. The human is much more likely to be able to converse with you than the dog is, and talking to the dog before you talk to the person, or instead of talking to the person, not only interferes with the dog’s work but is pretty darn offensive. Disabled people get quite enough invisibility, thank you. Odds are also good that they have plenty of conversational topics at their fingertips besides their service dog, what their service dog does for them, and what exactly is their disability anyway and how did it happen.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).