What is a Service Dog?

Service Dog

A SERVICE DOG is an assistance animal who is trained to assist its disabled handler. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that establishments that serves the public –  be it public or privately owned –  must allow disabled people to bring their service animals into the business premises.

They must permit the service animals to accompany its handler wherever he goes. If the customer is allowed into an area, the same right must afforded to the SERVICE DOG. These areas include  restaurants, hotels, retail stores, taxicabs, airplanes, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities

Ada and Service dogs

ADA recognizes that people have different forms of disabilities and they can rely on their Service Dog to assist them to perform tasks that they cannot do by themselves.  There are establishments that  have ‘no pets’ policy. However this policy does not apply to service dogs as they are not considered pets.

identification of service dog

You should have some identification to prove that your dog is a service dog while you are in public. You can obtain this OFFICIAL identification kit from United States Service Dog Society


The ADA states that disabled people with their service animals have the right to access to all public facilities. There should be no discrimination against the disabled people or their service animals. Even if the State or the local laws prohibit animals on the premise, the Federal Law from the ADA takes precedence over them.

Establishments cannot ask disabled guests to show proof of disability or medical condition.  They also cannot ask to show proof that their service animals are certified They also cannot restrict disabled guests or their service animals to places where able bodied guests are allowed.

However the establishments can reject a SERVICE DOG from its premise if it is aggressive, disruptive or threatens the safety of other people. Examples of such behaviors are excessive or prolonged barking.

Establishments can also charge its handlers for any damage caused by their service dog.

How Do I Qualify My SERVICE DOG

How do you know if a dog is qualified to be a service dog and is able to assist you especially in public? Simply review the below criterion and if you dog can perform most of the tasks the he/she is legally qualified as a Service Dog.

service dog

Here Is Your Official Service Dog Checklist:

1. Your dog must obey your command instantly. ‘Sit’ and ‘Stay’ must be a one time command that your dog can obey immediately. Even if you drop the leash, the dog will stop for you to regain control.

2. It must not be distracted by its surroundings whether it is noise, traffic, vehicles, other animals and passerby.

3. Your dog should walk beside you at all times. It should not run away from you and left you unattended.

4. When you exit from a vehicle, your dog should exit with you.

5. Your dog should not be distracted by people. Although it is naturally for people to pat your dog, your dog should not seek for such attention.

6. In the restaurant, your dog should sit comfortably on the floor beside you or under the  table.  It should not expect food from the table or get startled by the movement of people in the restaurant.

7. When people pat your dog, it should look to you for guidance. It should not display aggressive behavior.

The most important thing is that you must have full control of your dog at all times and the dog is fully obedient to all your commands.

I verify that my dog complies with the above guidelines

Requesting your OFFICIAL United States Service Dog Society documentation, you personally affirm to the United States Service Dog Society that your dog can perform the above tasks.

Just two easy steps!

You can train your service dog to do for you tasks that you cannot do yourself. You are responsible for training your dog and ensuring that it meets the criteria for this test. Your service dog will be able to accompany you wherever you go in public places including restaurants, museums, airports and airplanes, theaters, stores and parks.

service dog

United States Service Dog Society will issue you the above identification document for your dog as a service dog so that it can accompany you in public places. But you must ensure that your dog is adequately trained so that it can serve your needs and at the same time it does not pose any threat to the safety of the people in public places.

With an identification package from United States Service Dog Society, you will have all the materials necessary to clearly identify your dog as an OFFICIAL Service Dog. This will avoid any unnecessary and awkward situation when entering public places with your service dog.

Did You Know This About Your Service Dog?

Q: What breeds make good Service Dogs for physically disabled people?

A: Generally, the best service dogs for physically people are the Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers. They have the attributes of a good service dog. They are easy to train. They are people-orientated and are not hyperactive.  They are confident, but not dominating nor submissive. They do not require complex grooming. 

service dog retriever

Other the other hand there are certain conditions that make certain breed of dog unsuitable to be service dogs. For example, if they are are more interested in the environment than in their owner and gets distracted easily by its surround, then it does not make a good service dog. If the dog is small, it cannot pick up large objects or pull wheelchairs. If the dog is too large, it cannot sit under the table or squeeze itself on a bus or plane, thus obstructing the passage way.

Q: What breeds make good Hearing Dogs?

A: The criteria for a good hearing dog are size, personality and temperament. Most owners prefer a small to medium size  service dog. Most hearing dogs are about the size of a Sheltie or smaller. They must be energetic and ready to response to the call of duty immediately like a good soldier. They must also be friend and people-oriented.  The ideal breeds for good hearing dogs are: terrier mixes, Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus and Chihuahuas.

Q: Why shouldn’t a Service Dog be protective?

A: Disabled people  do bring their service dogs to public places such as parks. They are not able to physically restrain their dogs. Hence the dog must be safe for the public, does not feel threaten when surrounded by people,  or too protective of its owner. 

pit bull service dog

Q: Can you recommend any books on service dogs and people with disabilities?

A: Here are some of recommendations and these books may be available on amazon.com

■ ”Teamwork I & II” by Top Dog in Tucson, Arizona

■ ” Partners in Independence” by Ed and Toni Eames

■ “Lend Me an Ear” by Martha Hoffman

■ “Moving Violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs and Declarations of Independence” by John Hockenberry

■ “Life on Wheels: For the Active Wheelchair User” by Gary Karp

■ “Planet of the Blind” by Stephen Kuusisto

■ “Waist-High in the World: Life Among the Non-Disabled” by Nancy Mairs

■ “Chelsea: The Story of a Signal Dog” by Paul Ogden

Q: How do I get my dog certified as an service dog?

A: Currently there is no certification for a service dog. As long as a dog can perform and assist the person with needs, it qualifies as a service dog.  You can train the dog to perform such tasks for the person in needs.

Q: What are the benefits of certification?

A: The certification is an endorsement of your service dog’s ability to assist a person in need.  There are no certification standards. The certification process varies from organizations to organization. Some may take as long as two years or more. The kind of training may varies from classroom training, field trips to  home courses. As a certified graduate, you take pride in the fact that you put effort to learn and master a skill and you have the evidence to show your competence to the world.