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PDPM > About Service Dogs > Unofficial Code of Conduct

PDPM’s Unofficial Code of Conduct for Service Dog Handlers

In compiling this list, we have taken great care to consider the variety of circumstances a service dog handler may encounter, as well as the even wider variety of needs a disability presents for each individual.  While some are not universally agreed upon within the service dog community, each point reflects the foundation of common courtesy, as well as the opinions expressed by the overwhelming majority of service dog handlers with whom we have corresponded.  

Remember, every time you go out with your service dog, you are acting as ambassadors for the entire service dog community.  Many people you encounter on a daily basis will have never seen a service dog team in action before.  Do your best to leave others with a positive impression of service dog teams.

  1. Know the law.
    Unfortunately, you will inevitably encounter people in positions of authority at businesses and other places of public accommodation who do not know the law.  You should be well-versed in the laws that apply to service dog handlers. 

    Remember that your right to be accompanied by your dog is broadly protected by the ADA but not infinite.  There are circumstances under which your service dog can legally be denied access.  You should also be able to determine whether the Americans with Disabilities Act, Air Carrier Access Act or Federal Rehabilitation Act applies, in various situations, so you can quote the correct law.

  2. Your service dog should be trained to the highest of standards.
    While the law does not govern minimum training standards for service dogs, disability related tasks or work should not be the only training your service dog receives.  A service dog should demonstrate impeccable basic obedience skills, excellent social manners and practical skills that are necessary for work in the real world. 

  3. Do not allow your dog to interfere with others’ experiences.
    When you are accompanied by your dog, it is your responsibility to ensure that your dog does not bother others.  He or she should not solicit attention, vocalize or otherwise act in a manner that takes away from the experience that other patrons or guests expect.

  4. Your dog should sanitary and well-groomed.
    Service dogs should be bathed and brushed regularly.  Nails should be trimmed to an appropriate length. 

  5. Be mindful of other service dog teams who are present.
    Do not let your service dog interfere with another team you encounter.  If you come upon a handler who may be visually impaired, announce your dog’s presence and describe your location in relation to the other team.

    Service dog, Gypsy and then service dog in training, Bradley practice working around other service dogs.


  6. Respect others in the environment when positioning your dog.
    Keep your service dog close to you and out of the way, whenever possible.  Don’t put your dog in a down stay where he or she is blocking a pathway, door or other point of interest. 

    As a general rule, your service dog should not sit, stand or walk on a surface that is not appropriate for human foot traffic.  Unless disability related duties require otherwise, all four paws should be on the ground at all times.

  7. Maintain an image of professionalism.
    Service dogs should be identified as such.  Not only will this reduce access challenges for you, but it also sends a message to the public that you are a legitimate team and you take your role as a handler seriously.

    Conduct your interaction with your dog in a professional manner.  Avoid actions that may cause the general public to confuse your service dog for a pet dog, like feeding the dog table scraps in a restaurant or allowing your dog to wander around, at the end of his or her leash.

    It is generally a good idea for a service dog to walk, rather than to be carried by his or her handler, in a sling or carrier.  The exceptions, of course, would be circumstances that pose a danger, like a small service dog getting stepped on in a large crowd or when the dog must be carried to perform disability related tasks or work. 

  8. Clean or neaten up after your service dog.
    It should go without saying that if your service dog doesn’t feel well and has an accident of some nature, you must clean it up or ask for assistance in doing so.  You should also notify an employee of the accident so the appropriate commercial grade disinfectant can be used.

    You should also take measures to either prevent or neaten up after the minor occurrences that are inevitable with most dogs. 

    - Heavy shedding can be managed with proper grooming.  As a consideration to others, it may be a good idea for handlers of service dogs who are heavy shedders to carry a thin mat for your dog to lie on for extended periods of time or a lint roller, to minimize fur left behind. 

    - Handlers of service dogs who are heavy droolers should carry a cloth or wipes to clean off an affected surface or to wipe off the dog’s mouth as needed.

    - Service dogs should not enter businesses or other indoor places of public accommodation with muddy paws.

    - If your service dog accidentally bumps into something and knocks an item off a display rack, store shelf, etc., return the item to its rightful place or ask for assistance to do so.

  9. Be patient with well-intended members of the general public.
    The use of service dogs is still a foreign concept to many people.  Not everyone will “get it” from the start,  but positive reinforcement can go a long way when educating others about service dog etiquette.  Let others know when you appreciate their consideration and willingness to learn.


The Please Don't Pet Me footer, multiple service dogs .