When it comes to Service Dogs, there are as many gear options as there are stars in the sky. Here’s a basic rundown of available options for Service Dog gear, equipment and supplies.
Keep in mind that each and every team is unique. Every Service Dog and their human partner have different needs, face varying circumstances and are individuals. What works for one team may not work for another, and you may find your dog’s needs change throughout the partnership. Not everything on this list will be (nor should it necessarily be) needed for each team, and at the end of the day, you should strive to have a safe, working partnership with your pup – everything else is just details.
Head collars are a training tool utilized to teach loose leash walking and handler focus. There are various designs available, and most come in both neutral and bright colors. Many Service Dogs wear head collars as part of their working uniform, even if they’re not technically necessary any longer due to the high degree of training. Three brands we recommend due to superior fit and design are:
- Newtrix – Uniquely designed head collar originally intended for use in a Canadian Service Dog program.
- Gentle Leader – Industry standard favorite and readily available in all sizes and tons of colors.
- Infinity – A simple, minimalistic head collar originally designed as an all-in-one leash/head collar combo for Service Dog teams.
Every dog should be conditioned to wear a muzzle just a matter of everyday training. (If a Service
Dog were to be injured and brought to a veterinarian, a muzzle may be placed on the dog. It is very common for even the best behaved dogs to nip when hurt. That is not the time to introduce the added stress of wearing a muzzle. Service Dogs should be trained to behave in EVERY situation — muzzles just one more piece of equipment dogs need to become accustomed to wearing.) For more information, please read Muzzles: Not just for Aggression and The Muzzle Up Project.
There are two different kinds of muzzles, basket and soft. Soft muzzles are a great addition to an emergency or first aid kit, and they should only be used for short periods of time.
Basket muzzles are extremely comfortable, come in sizes for all breeds and are available in many different styles. Every dog should have one of his or her own and be comfortable wearing it. An emergency is NOT the time to potentially stress your partner further with unfamiliar gear. Three brands we recommend are:
- Jafco – Jafco muzzles are utilized across the working dog and veterinary industry for their superior fit, sizing, safety and comfort.
- Baskerville – Baskerville muzzles are, hands-down, one of the best choices for fit, comfort, training and casual, every day use. They’re readily available at major chain pet stores, which is an added bonus!
- Leerburg Wire – This style offers outstanding airflow and fit.
While not “gear” persay, face wipes are a delightful addition to your Service Dog’s personal items. Keeping your partner’s face, muzzle, eyes and ears clean are made far easier with face wipes. We recommend Earthbath as a great resource for anything grooming.
NOTE: We are not endorsing any collar mentioned here. They’re merely listed as options. For a detailed breakdown of pros and cons for each collar type, check out this guide.
Every Service Dog needs a collar of some kind with tags attached. Your partner’s only link to you, should he become lost, is his tags. Even if your partner is microchipped, he should wear a tag – not everyone will take a dog in to be scanned.
There are various types of collars available. For every day, routine use and regular walking, a flat collar (also called a buckle collar) or martingale is best. Limited slips are a martingale variation that also work well. Here are 3 of our favorite brands for every day wear:
Training-only collars include pinch, choke, and remote collars. Should you elect to use these, they should only be worn for training sessions and they should NEVER be used unless you’ve received proper instruction on safe and effective use.
ID Tag Holder
An alternative to a collar if you need something minimalistic, free of frills and straight-up functional is an ID Tag Holder. While these are often constructed strong enough to take some pressure, they’re not built for walking and are instead designed to carry just the essentials: an ID tag optimally placed to be seen. Our favorites come from:
Bandanas are always a fun, flashy means of adding some color or additional ID to your partner!
There are all kinds of harnesses available, ranging from training harnesses like the Easy Walk to wheelchair pull harnesses like the Alpine Outfitters and brace mobility support harnesses. There are also regular body harnesses in a variety of styles, and vehicle safety harnesses.
Most working dog teams utilize a vest or a jacket while out in public. You aren’t required by federal law to “dress” your Service Dog, but having identifying gear is usually seen as a courtesy to the public. There are more styles, fits, functions and colors available than we could ever get into here, so you can be sure there’s something for everyone!
When the going gets chilly, the tough get going! Just kidding, but they might need a coat. If your partner will be wearing a coat with his working gear, look for one that offers full coverage for his belly with a streamlined, close fit so his vest can go over it and still look professional. The Ruffwear coats work beautifully for this, with the Climate Changer a favorite around here.
Boots can come in handy for Service Dogs who routinely work in slick environments (like on tiled floors) or Service Dogs in cold areas. Even if you think your partner’s feet don’t get cold, it’s important to protect him from the chemicals and salts found on sidewalks and streets during winter months. Hands down, the best brand for boots for any use is Ruffwear.
Nail Caps can be handy for Service Dogs who perform paws-up tasks on walls, cabinets, fridges, vehicles or people. The caps help prevent scratches.
Other gear that your partner doesn’t wear but that come in handy (or are all but required, like a leash) include a bed or place, crate, bowls, a tether and toys.