Service Dog Etiquette

A service dog is specially trained to assist a person with a disability and entitled to accompany its handler wherever she or he goes.  While the important work of some service dogs may not be readily apparent to the casual passerby, it’s important to be respectful of the team and not prejudge.


An entity that allows access to the general public must allow access to the service dog team.  If it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only these two inquiries are allowed: 

  1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

It is very important to recognize that when they are together as a “team” in public, the two are working partners and should not be distracted.   This especially means one should never reach out and pet or touch the dog unexpectedly.  If one is interested in approaching the team, it is important to be courteous and ask the handler first.

It is important not to prejudge, as not all individuals with a disability are visually identifiable as having one.  Two good examples are: brace dogs that assist individuals in standing or sitting, or seizure alert dogs.

It is also important to recognize that each service dog handler has his or her own comfort level about talking with strangers about their dog and their own disability.  Understandably, some are very cautious and private, while others will welcome interaction.   Please do not be offended if they choose to not engage in conversation nor allow interaction with their dog.

For the health and safety of the service dog team, here are some other tips to be aware of when approaching a service dog:

  • Never offer food of any kind to a service dog unless the handler has specifically approved it.
  • Do not call out to or cause any distraction for the service dog.
  • Please keep children and pets under control and do not allow them to rush the service dog.


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