Service Dogs: Asking the Important Questions

With a background in professional service dog training and often having a puppy-in-training at my side, I am frequently asked questions about service dogs. I, and others who handle service animals, have learned to allow extra time whenever going into public with a dog because we will inevitably be stopped once every few minutes by curious passersby who each have their own questions. Some of the questions are expected, some strange, some thoughtful, and some silly. It can occasionally be tedious, but the truth is that I love the questions. These dogs are doing (or are being trained to do) a critically important, life-saving job, and it is good that people want to know more. Because service dogs come in all shapes and colors and do a variety of jobs, there can be a lot of confusion about what type of work they do and where they are allowed to go. People often just don't know how to react when they see somebody walk into a store, a restaurant, or an office with a dog. (Edit: Questions in red have already been answered, clicking the link will lead you to the answer)

... Are you supposed to ignore it? ... or acknowledge it?

... Should you offer to help the person with the dog?

... Is the dog allowed to come into where I am eating? What about if it is walking through the buffet line?

... Can I ask to pet it?

... I'm a business owner and the dog isn't acting like a service dog, can I ask them to leave?

... How do I train my dog to become a service dog?

... The dog is asleep under a table, so is it still working?

... Is that dog really allowed in here?

... I want to train service dogs! How do I do that?

... I need my dog to help stay calm in public. Once I buy it a harness, is it allowed to come with me? ... The dog is shedding and some people in this area are allergic, can I ask them to move the dog?

... Are service dogs allowed in hotels that are not pet-friendly?

... Are there ways to volunteer with a service dog organization?

... Can a child with disabilities bring his/her service dog to school?

... What type of work is the dog doing? Could the person get assistance in a way other than a dog?

... Service dogs and therapy dogs are the same thing, right?

These are good questions, and they are important questions to be asking. As pet owners, business owners, friends, and family members, it is also important for us to know the answers. To that end, over the next few months (in addition to our normal training topics) we will be answering all of these questions, and more, in a new blog series about service dogs. We understand that it is awkward or often inappropriate to stop and ask somebody about their service dog when they are going about their day. To bridge the gap, we're creating a place here where you can receive answers to any questions you may have.

Send us a message with anything you have ever wondered about service dogs, and we'll include a response to it during this series. As the series progresses, each of the questions in the list above will be linked to the appropriate answer. So, if you are looking for one specific answer, check back to this post periodically. Of, if you would like to read the entire series, please follow along here or on Facebook.

For the sake of the dogs, the people being supported by service dogs, the business owners, and the people around you, it is important that these questions be answered. Please help us spread the knowledge by asking us your own questions and kindly sharing the answers with those around you!


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