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Do’s and Don’ts: A Guide for Assistance Dog Trainers

Do not touch someone’s assistance/ service dog without prior consent.

You could distract the dog performing an alert or monitoring task. The dog could also become distracted and miss cues from the handler. You wouldn’t handle someone’s medical equipment, so please respect that an assistance dog is also a medical aid.

Do not offer to handle the dog during times of training.

We need the handler to be confident and skilled in their handling. To work in tandem for the individual’s health is a very personal interaction between the handler and the dog.

Do not attempt to grab the lead at any point.

Even if you are both at a road crossing, and it is clear to cross, it’s really important to wait for the dog. You will not always be with them and this distraction can impact the dog’s learning and confidence.

Do empower your handler.

Do not cue the dog. Instead, in the initial meeting, assess how the handler best communicates and understands instructions. Then give them verbal or written instructions, or both, to cue the dog.

Do not assume that your handler can travel for field trip days.

Don’t assume that they will mentally be able to cope with a field trip. Be clear in all communications and let them direct the plan. Always confirm, several times, the agreed plan of action.

Do not assume a child isn’t capable of working with their assistant or service dog.

Many children have assistant and service dogs and can work together as well as an adult assistant or service dog team.

Do not underestimate a breed.

We all have breed preferences, but we also know that unicorn dogs exist. Always be open minded.

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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.

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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