Professionally Trained Service Dog Etiquette

A professionally trained service dog is an animal trained to help a person with a disability lead a more independent life. Service dogs are trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. There is a certain level of respect one must consider when encountering a professionally trained service dog in public. This is a brief overview of appropriate service dog etiquette.

Important considerations when encountering a professionally trained service dog in public:

  • Do not distract a service dog, do not interrupt the dog from performing its job.
  • Do not attempt to feed or talk to the dog. Allow the dog to continue to focus on its handler and keep that individual safe.
  • Professionally service dogs in public are working dogs. Do not attempt to pet them or ask to pet them.
  • Do not deliberately make eye contact with a working service dog, it is disruptive.
  • Always communicate with the handler. Not the dog. The dog is working.
  • Do not allow your dog to intimidate a professionally trained service dog. Service dogs are not out in public to play or engage with other dogs. They are working when their vest is on!
  • Professionally trained service dogs and their handlers have the right of way, give them that respect and always allow them to go first when encountered out in public.
  • Do not assume a napping service dog is off-duty, the dog should receive the same respect you would give if it were awake.
  • The best thing to do when you encounter a professionally trained service dog in public is to pretend the dog is not there! This will allow the dog to do its job and ensure you do not disrupt the dog-handler working relationship.

Service Dog Behavior

Just as important as it is to respect a service dog encountered in public, it is also equally important that service dogs exhibit good behavior while in public settings. A good professionally trained service dog in public is expected to be on good behavior. Service dogs are permitted to access public places that most other dogs are not allowed to venture into. Therefore, service dogs are expected not to sniff everything for the thrill of exploration or the “sniff.”

Professionally trained service dogs out with their handlers are expected to be well disciplined. These dogs should never appear to be anxious or aggressive during their public outings. Service dogs should be focused on their handlers while they are out in public. If a handler is seated, at a restaurant, for example, the service dog is expected to remain laying down near its handler, ready to respond to an emergency but otherwise still.


Service dogs in public should be well-groomed, also it is recommended, but not required by law that they be wearing their service vest at all times while in a public setting. Service dogs are expected to be housebroken and have an understanding of when and where it is permissible to relieve themselves. Service dogs out in public with their handlers are also expected to be on a leash at all times for the safety of both the dog and the handlers.

Professionally trained service dogs in public are expected to be quiet and not bark or growl. It is okay if a service dog makes noise in order to get the attention of its handler, but otherwise, the dog should not make noise while out in public. The service dog should not snarl or make aggressive gestures towards other people or dogs while out in public, their focus should remain on the handler they are accompanied with.


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