When it comes to hospital access rights for Service Dogs, United States federal law permits Service Dogs to accompany their disabled handler into in non-sterile, public areas. Cut through the chaos with this plain English explanation of the rules, exceptions, laws, requirements and expectations for Service Dog hospital access.
In the United States, every Service Dog handler enjoys the right to travel with their Service Dog. However, finding straightforward information about airline policies and requirements, international laws, TSA regulations, security checkpoints, and other commonly encountered situations isn't easy! To help you prepare you for your trip, we've compiled Service Dog travel tips, tricks, hacks, guidelines, and resources. Terminology note: U.S. Federal law includes miniature horses in the list of allowable Assistance Animal species. Miniature horses trained as Assistance Animals usually provide either guide services or brace and mobility support. Since the majority of Assistance Animal handlers partner with a dog, we usually utilize the term "Service Dog" instead of the more universal "Service Animal." However, any time you see "Service Dog," you could replace it with "Miniature Guide Horse" or "Brace and Mobility Support Horse" seamlessly. Miniature horse users possess identical public access rights to Service Dog teams. Airlines Updated Service Dog and ESA Policies in 2018 Throughout the course of 2018, nearly every major domestic airline updated their Service Dog travel policies. Most airlines designed their new protocols to crack down on people using legal loopholes to transport untrained or unsuitable dogs free of charge in the cabin. As such, many of the new rules differ greatly from the "old" airline Service Dog requirements. This is particularly true concerning Emotional Support Animals (ESAs). Many airlines now require an extensive, multi-step approval process for Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals. Some airlines outline different rules or behavioral expectations for different types of Service Dogs. As an example, American Airlines requires Psychiatric Service Dogs to meet the Emotional Support Animal (ESA) requirements instead of the standard Service Dog requirements. Learn More About how Service Animals, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support Animals Differ Other types of professional working dogs, like Search and Rescue Dogs and Police K9s, often fly under an airline's established Service Dog policy. However, that's far from universal -- airline working dog policies range from nonexistent to clearly defined with everything in between! All handlers should confirm their airline's Working K9 or Service Dog travel policy several days prior to flying. Airlines accept Service Dogs in Training (SDiTs) at their own discretion. Service Dnimals in Training are not covered by the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) and therefore have no legal rights to fly under any Service Animal policy. Some airlines provide better SDiT policies than others. Service Dog Definitions and Requirements Vary Widely In addition to tightening the rules for flying
When you first bring home a new Service Dog candidate, it's easy to become overwhelmed at the sheer volume of "stuff" that needs to be mastered. While every Service Dog's end job may vary, there are foundational behaviors and concepts every working dog should know, no matter his or her specialty. Teams should be adept at skills in addition to the ones presented below (this list is not at all all-inclusive), but these are, without a doubt, the first five skills you should teach any Service Dog in Training.
Almost everyone knows it takes a lot of training to become a Service Dog, but few people know how much training or what kind of training. Service Dog training includes several areas of study and can take lots of time. Continue reading to learn more about the types of training Service Dogs require
Many people have a vague sense of awareness that Service Dogs "help" their person and that they're allowed to be in public, but there's a lot more to Service Dog handlers and teams than meets the eye.
Some variation of the "DO NOT DISTRACT" patch regularly appears on Service Dog vests, jackets, and harnesses. However, Service Dog handlers still report that members of the public frequently ignore the patch. Distracting a Service Dog is dangerous for both the dog and handler. Frequently, though, people don't know what distracts Service Dogs! Keep reading to learn more about distractions, Service Dogs, and how to avoid causing problems for working Service Dog teams you see in public. Every Service Dog handler, trainer, and puppy raiser has dozens of stories about members of the public distracting their Service Dog or Service Dog in Training (SDiT). Dog lovers often see a Service Dog working in a store and want to engage with the dog or handler. Many don't realize, though, that touching, talking to, making noises at, or offering food to a Service Dog is not only annoying but can also be dangerous. Distracted Service Dogs pull their focus away from their handler and their job to focus on the person engaging them. For some teams, even a split-second shift in focus can result in falls, injury, or other issues. What's the Rule About Interacting With Service Dogs? A simple rule exists for engaging Service Dogs in public: don't. Avoid talking to them. Don't use a baby voice or make kissy sounds. Don't crouch down or try to make them look at you. Resist petting them without explicit permission from the handler. Don't offer food, treats, tidbits, or toys. Don't block their way or try to scare them. Basically, pretend the Service Dog doesn't exist and you'll be doing just fine. Everything someone does that is intended to get a reaction from the dog counts as a distraction. The solution is simple: just let the Service Dog work in peace. Engage directly with the handler if necessary for everyday interaction or business. What Are Common Distractions? Service Dog Distractions: Touch and Petting Americans tend to be a bunch of dog-loving people. Many people enjoy interacting with dogs and like petting them. When these people see a dog in public they often assume the dog is friendly and immediately reach out to pet or touch them. One of the most common complaints Service Dog handlers and trainers voice is that people ignore their "DO NOT PET" patch. They often report that people ignore the patch no matter how big or brightly colored it appears! Touching, petting or patting Service Dogs
When it comes to Service Dogs or Service Dogs in Training with public access, there are definite things Service Dogs in public should and should not do. Learn more about how well-trained Service Dogs should appear and what U.S. Service Dog law says about dogs who don't quite possess the skills necessary to safely work in public
We've all seen a Service or Assistance Dog walking around a store or restaurant wearing a vest or jacket. Most people assume all Service Dogs wear vests, but that's not true. Federal law doesn't even require Service Dogs to wear a vest and yet, almost all of them do. Keep reading to find out why! Service Dog Vests For Identification First and foremost, most Service Dogs wear a vest for identification purposes. A Service Dog's vest is chock full of information. Each team has different needs, so vests are often unique, but common information includes: Where the dog comes from, if they're program trained ("Four Paws For Ability") Any sponsors, if the team fundraised for the Service Dog Dog's name, if the handler feels like sharing Type of Service Dog ("Medical Assistance Dog") Service Dog Vests For Function Many teams use their Service Dog's vest to carry important documentation or vaccinations records, medication, or husbandry items like cleanup bags or treats. Allergen Alert Dog teams often have an epi-pen or other lifesaving medication in a pouch. Mobility teams often have vests that allow forward pulling momentum assistance or counterbalance. Service Dog Vests For Communication Most Service Dog vests communicate valuable, important, or helpful information. Many handlers, especially those who are nonverbal or who have social anxiety, rely on their patches to communicate for them. Most teams find that patches with legal information on them reduce access challenges. Type of interactions with the dog allowed ("No Talk, No Touch, No Eye Contact") Legal rights ("Access Required by Federal Law") Rules or guidelines for emergency interactions ("In Event of Emergency, Do Not Separate Dog From Handler") Anything else the handler or program deems necessary Instructions for assisting handler ("Epipen in Pouch") Service Dog Vests For Self-Expression Service Dog vests can be custom-made or off the shelf. They're available in thousands of colors, color combinations, patterns, designs, and fits. There's a limitless number of patches, including fandom or themed Service Dog patches. Lots of teams, especially owner-trainer Service Dog teams, value unique, funny, or quippy patches. Some collect patches that say things like, "I'm a Service Dog, not a magical unicorn!" or "I'm a Patronus." A Service Dog's vest offers a great avenue for self-expression. Some teams have several vests for a variety of purposes.
Everyone wants their puppy to housetrain quickly. For Service Dogs in Training, progression relies on housetraining. Until an SDiT has reliable potty habits, public access training often proves difficult or impossible. If you're trying to make quick progress with potty training, make sure you're not making these common mistakes. You're Not Using a Schedule When a puppy gets up at the same time every day, eats on a schedule, and goes out on a schedule, housetraining becomes much easier. Not only can you predict when the puppy needs to go outside, but the puppy learns that an opportunity to go out happens regularly and they start to wait for it. Set up a schedule for your Service Dog in Training as soon as possible. Your puppy should come out of the crate and go to bed at roughly the same time every day. Meals and training sessions should occur at regular times. Puppies need daily exercise, grooming, and interaction, so pencil those in, too. You're Not Keeping Them Focused Puppies enjoy playing. If you simply put a puppy outdoors and then bring them in, oftentimes, you'll find a surprise on the floor shortly after! To prevent the "I took them out but they came inside and pottied" problem, take your puppy outside on a leash. Keep them on the leash and focused on business until they potty. Afterward, remove the leash and play. Business before play. Remember that puppies need to go outside first thing of the morning and just before bed, as well as after meals and during any changes in activity. You're Not Controlling Intake Fee feeding a puppy and leaving water down all the time is one of the top causes of house training issues. Feed your puppy on a schedule. What goes in must come out, so with time, you'll be able to predict when your puppy needs to go out. Pick up all water 2-3 hours before bed so your puppy has plenty of time to go potty before going to sleep for the night. Very young puppies might need an extra trip outdoors during the night, but older puppies are more than capable of sleeping through the night.