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10 Things Service Dog Handlers Want You to Know

Content provided by Kiss-Service Dogs

Service dogs provide all sorts of assistance to a wide range of needs. They can be used in the following capacities:

Severe Allergy Alert Dogs (AADs)
Autism Assistance Dogs
Brace/Mobility Support Dogs (BMSD)
Diabetic Alert Dogs (DADs)
Hearing Dogs
Medical Alert Dogs (MADs)
Medical Assistance Dogs
Psychiatric Service Dog (PSDs)
Seizure Response Dogs
Visual Assistance Dogs
Wheelchair Assistance Dogs
and so much more...


1. Teamwork
The handler and service dog are a team and as such, both work to help each other. The dog is trained to cover the handler's needs and protect his safety zone and in return, the handler also looks out for the safety of his service dog. Looking out for each other is protecting the team from any harm coming from (but not limited to) another person or another dog. Learning to read the body language of other humans and other dogs helps to avoid unwanted difficulties.

2. Making a Successful Handler/Service Dog Team
Three major factors that make a successful handler/service dog team are bonding, love, and fun. Bonding starts from day one and love naturally follows immediately after; then you can begin the training. Fun must be incorporated into the training as early as possible so that the service dog is motivated to work with the handler. Without any one of these 3 pieces you can have a good dog team, BUT when you have all 3 of them, you will have a great team. The Dog will literally work for you until it passes out from exhaustion, it will do ALL it can to please you.

3. Service Dog Works
The job of a service dog is imperative. A service dog works for its handler and must be respected and left alone to work. Do not approach the dog, talk to it, distract it, touch it, do absolutely nothing to the dog. Treat the service dog as you would a secret service agent; let it do its job without any interference.

4. Service Dog is a Lifeline
Depending on the disability; a Service dog may be the only thing standing between the handler and death. A service dog is the lifeline of the handler; it is an essential part of the handler’s survival. A service dog is never to be distracted from doing its job as in most cases a human life depends on the dog. It is highly recommended that you completely ignore a service dog because a distracted service dog is a service dog that is not performing as expected. The final outcome of your involvement with a service dog may end up with a regretted injury that could easily be avoided by just letting the service dog do its vital job of protecting its handler and making him/her feel safe.

5. Medical History Is Confidential
Proper protocol is to never ask a handler his/her medical history, which is a very personal subject. Not all people have visible injuries! Handlers should never be put in a position to validate the use of a service dog. Having a service dog doesn’t warrant a conversation, often times the handler just wants to go about his/her day peacefully and without disturbances.

6. Service Dogs are Unique
Service dogs are made from many breeds and come in all shapes and sizes. There is not one type of dog fit for the job. A service dog cannot be identified simply by its appearance and should never be compared to others. A service dog takes its job seriously, is well trained, well mannered, well groomed, is quiet and highly responsive. Unfortunately there are phony service dogs in existence; however, for those who are REAL, you must never assume that all service dogs and their handlers are phony. There have been instances where people have accused handlers and their service dogs of being phony and have escalated to a degree in which the law has gotten involved to investigate such allegations. Whether you are a handler or an innocent bystander witnessing such accusations, please voice record or video tape the incident to protect the handler and service dog.

7. Service Dogs are Loved and Taken Care Of
Do not “feel sorry” for a service dog. Whether on duty or off duty, a service dog is greatly appreciated and respected by its handler and is therefore very well taken care of. The bond between the handler and the service dog is inseparable and unique. Service dogs are well-adjusted, highly trained and socialized; better than many dogs that are kept as pets.

8. A Service Dog is like Medical Equipment and is not Free-for-all
A handler needs his/her “equipment” at all times. The same way a person never approaches another to take his/her personal property, such as crutches or oxygen tank, you must never attempt to take a service dog away from its handler. A service dog is eminent to its handler and is very protective. A service dog is by law allowed to accompany its handler everywhere without question. Respect the dog and its handler, especially if you ever have to be reminded that the dog is at work!

9. Service Dog Is Protected Under Law
A service dog is protected under US federal law. The law allows a Service dog to accompany its handler anywhere in public without exceptions; it doesn’t matter where, it can be in a restaurant, a hospital or a playground to name a few. A service dog has complete access regardless of your opinion. The only instance where a service dog can be excluded is if it is not house-trained or if it is misbehaving and the handler is doing nothing to correct the dog.

The Americans with Disabilities Act and Department Of Justice cover a wide range of Laws, Regulations, and various items including, but not limited to, someone trying to grab your service dog to hitting your dog, to beating it and leaving the dog for dead; or your service dog being attacked and injured by someone else’s dog. These are also class 1 to class 4 felonies. Both of these federal organizations cover the Government laws on all items mentioned in this paragraph. Each State has its own State Level Laws, but the most stringent law is the one that takes prevalence over the other.

10. No Certification Required
In order to have a service dog, a handler must be disabled as defined by U.S. federal law. There are NO documentations, identifications, certifications, of any kind to have a service dog accompany a handler anywhere in public, and it is illegal for anyone to ask for any such papers. If you are the owner of a place of business in which a handler and service dog have entered, you may only ask two questions: Is your dog a service dog? And, what type of work does your dog do for you? You can’t ask for anything else.

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