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.
D. Franck October 26, 2014
Overall, a good read. Personally, I would take exception to some of the froo-froo collars in the collars and ID holder areas. It can be challenging enough having people accept that my dog is working; if she looks to glam they tend to think it is all for show. We tend to go with a no-nonsense collar and harness, to express that she is dressed for the serious work she is doing.
Most of the time, that is. When she comes back from the groomer, she always has bows in her hair …. which I leave there at least for a few days. All work and no play, don’tcha know …
Kea Grace October 29, 2014
I think you’re talking about the Paco Collars link when you mention the “froo-froo collars.” Many of them are VERY blinged out; it’s true. However, I included it for their ID-tag holders, which are straight up, no frills, functional gear that’s gorgeous, durable and some of the highest quality available. I have Paco IDTH that are several years old and that look better than the day I got them, due to the natural polishing and oiling from my dogs’ coats.
Bet she looks good with her bows!
D. Franck October 29, 2014
Henna looks great with her bows … at least, SHE thinks so. I kind of hide my head for a few days, but then …. y’know, I’m a guy that isn’t big on ruffles and stuff. And it does encourage people to think they can just walk up and pet her … annoying. But if it makes her feel special … well …she is, so I guess I’m okay with that … for a few days, anyway …
Teagan Manning June 7, 2016
One thing i would like to point out here is that most people with SDs are on disability and while many programs offer leash collar and cape, that is it. While i liked to gear presented in this article it is way out of my financial ability… I would love for the author to do an article on resources for this gear that is cost effective. For example: i live in Upstate NY and i will beed to take my pup out in the winter and would like for him to have foot protection from the salt and snow… I could never afford 74.00 boots…. it would be nice to see whats out there at a reduced rates.. As Kea Grace said..i want my dog to have a more professional working dog look.. On the other hand, whether i like it or not.. as a service dog handler we are often a bridge for service dogs in public and sometimes unique gear is a way to make our pups seem less scary and an oddity.. Thanks you for putting this together… all and all it was a help to know whats out there. T
Lynn Kelly October 30, 2017
Yes. Senior disabled. Former professional trainer. I need Only a light weight vest. My older S D passed away in August. Her vest too small for my boy in training. Don’t need 50-100 cards with the Laws. Last order from Amazon was big disappointment. Service spelled wrong and too hot for this pup.
Kimberly October 27, 2014
What a very informative email! Always looking for more information to make my training better and my dogs happier. Keep up the great work!
Sussie October 27, 2014
Having a Service Dog wear a muzzle in public sends the wrong message. When all the new reports about “fake” service dogs biting people, this is NOT a good idea!
Anything Pawsable Staff October 28, 2014
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, and many emergency vets require all dogs to be muzzled who are coming in for a trauma. 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 are just another thing they need to acclimated to. We’re not saying muzzle an SD in public – merely to socialize them and acclimate them well before it’s ever needed.
OliviaD January 5, 2017
I have a large breed dog and my vet uses a muzzle when needing to do more ‘invasive’ things like injections or blood draws. I would not have ever thought about a muzzle if not for this. It was very easy to do, a few hot dogs and he took to it easily! The vet uses one of the soft kinds, I got one to practice with, once in awhile so he doesn’t associate it with only uncomfortable things. I don’t even do that any more, because he takes putting it on with do problem.
It also gives me the option of having blood work, or maybe things like x-rays done without sedation (which the vet tells me is sometimes used if a dog is too hard to control or there is fear of injury). He does okay, the staff doesn’t worry about being nipped, nor do I have to worry about him doing so (you never can know for sure). So, I’m glad he has this skill, as you said; I could understand in an emergency situation if someone was not familiar with the dog, they might use a muzzle as a precaution.
natereadstoomuch March 15, 2022
I think the Muzzle is on the list more for a training purpose. all dogs need to know that muzzles aren’t bad, it is just a good thing to have on hand owning any dog.
Andrea November 22, 2014
This is a great list for someone about to become a service dog owner! Thank you.
rita comers December 11, 2014
I surely hope your service dog equipment sales is more honest than you sale of service dogs and people actually get what they pay for.
Kea Grace December 14, 2014
We do not sell or provide Service Dogs. We only provide education, training standards and the opportunity for people to affirm their willingness to uphold standards for themselves and their Service Dogs in public. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if there’s a situation you’d like to speak with us about.
Boyce November 17, 2015
Greetings Kea Grace : I regularly read your articles and enjoy them. They are very informative and educational keep up the good work!!! 🙂
Lyndsey Blythe November 1, 2017
I know this may be coming too late for some readers, but it is worth saying that Ruffwear offers a 50% discount for working dogs. Any place I order, I always state this up front, then ask what that company can offer. No one has beat or even matched Ruffwear!