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

There is so much more to say and learn about the work of service animals. For instance, an important topic I don’t even have time to touch on is the ethics of using service animals. While service dogs are busy meeting our needs, are we meeting theirs? I have certainly seen enough stressed-looking service dogs to be sure that this subject merits plenty of attention. As for the short take I can give here, doesn’t it amaze you how clever and adaptable our beloved familiar dogs can be?

Thanks to Adam Freedman, QDT’s Legal Lad, for his help clarifying the relationship between state and federal law. You can post comments and questions on my Facebook page, or email me at dogtrainer@quickanddirtytips.com. I read all my mail, and I may use it as the basis for future articles. You can also follow me on Twitter, where I’m Dogalini. Thanks for reading!


Animal Legal and Historical Center, Table of State Assistance Animal Laws (updated 2010).

Delta Society, “Articles and Resources Related to Service Animals.” This page also has links to a wealth of information about traveling with a service dog, housing, what to do if you’re denied access, and on and on. I cribbed much of my etiquette advice from the Delta Society’s fact sheet, “Service Dog Etiquette.”

Furlong, Roxanne. “Training Your Own Service Dog,” New Mobility, Dec. 2006.

Handelman, Barbara. “Clicker Train Your Own Assistance Dog.” 2004. Video download here; DVDs here.

OC-Assist-Dogs. Yahoo! group for service dog handlers, primarily clicker training.

Psychiatric Service Dog Society FAQ; I have no expertise on the subject of PSDs. The training advice here is not up to speed with modern methods, however.

U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section. “Commonly Asked Questions About Service Animals in Places of Business.” Jan. 14, 2008.

U.S. Department of Justice, “Fact Sheet: Highlights of the Final Rule to Amend the Department of Justice's Regulation Implementing Title II of the ADA.” Last updated October 7, 2010.

Traditionally, guide dogs have been trained with choke-collar corrections, with the usual dispiriting effects on the animal’s demeanor. Guide Dogs for the Blind is pioneering clicker training and other non-aversive methods of training guide dogs.

Guide Dog image courtesy of Shutterstock


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).