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How to Handle Your Dog When You Encounter a Service Dog

Many pet guardians don’t know what to do when they encounter a service dog team, particularly when they have their pet with them. Here are a few tips in case you and your pet encounter a service dog team at the pet store, park, or other place.


  • Your first concern should be making sure your dog is leashed. No matter how well-trained you feel your dog is, if your dog makes a mistake and distracts the service dog, it could result in injury to the service dog handler. If you’ve been walking your dog off-lead, go ahead and snap the lead on your dog until the service dog team is out of sight. The service dog handler will very much appreciate it!


  • Give the team space. You may think one meter (about three feet) is enough, but give the team as much space as possible. Your dog should never get within a few feet of the service dog, so you may need to step back a few feet.Photo of a service dog team in a cafe


  • Be sure your dog is not barking, lunging, or otherwise distracting the service dog. Service dogs are vital to the people they are helping who are already dealing with a lot of distractions, so a barking or lunging dog may cause them an issue. If your dog might distract the service dog, try to break your dog’s line of sight with a physical barrier such as a shelf or car, or rapidly deliver treats to keep them focused on you.


Encountering a service dog team shouldn’t be stressful at all! Service dogs are wonderful to see working. The best thing a pet guardian can do is ensure their pet is allowing the service dog to work proficiently.



About the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) Assistance Animal Division

Our volunteer committee includes a broad representation of pet professionals with a variety of skills and interests specific to assistance animals. We invite individuals and professional organizations interested in training, working with, and receiving support from animals who assist people in different ways to join PPG. Pet guardians can join for free, and as members will have access to additional pages on our website (along with some amazing vendor discounts).

We look forward to welcoming you into an inclusive group that prioritizes humane treatment and welfare of both people and assistance animals!


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