Archive for the ‘Service Dog Tips’ Category

Trying to determine if a dog is a service dog can feel like a game of Twenty Questions, but there’s only really two questions a business owner is allowed to ask: 

Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

As cryptic and frustrating as that sounds, these parameters are present for good reasons. They protect the personal privacy of the service dog’s handler. In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act protects the rights and privacy of individuals with disabilities, thus also protecting the right of a service dog to perform their task. In short, owners of service dogs have federal rights. Because of these federal protections, the public should be aware of the appropriate way to verify a service dog. 

What is a Service Dog? 

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service dog is trained to complete a task directly relating to their owner’s disability. A service dog is not a pet but a way for a disabled person to overcome their disability. Because service dogs affect their owners’ health and welfare, they’re allowed into areas where pets aren’t typically welcome. Some examples of service dog tasks are:

Alert people with hearing impairments. Identify impending seizures. Help people with mobility problems.  What Can You Ask a Service Dog Owner? 

As stated prior, there are two questions a business can ask a service dog owner when trying to verify a service dog:

Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Though other questions may seem relevant, they can be considered intrusive and discriminatory. Here are a few examples of questions that may seem pertinent but infringe on privacy or are discriminatory. 

What kind of disability do you have?  Can your dog demonstrate what it does for you?  Do you have documents to prove that your dog is a service dog?  Why does that dog need to be with you in here?  Would you be okay without the dog with you? 

The ADA laws do not require service dogs to be registered, certified, or wear identifying gear such as a vest or ID tag. Therefore, asking for identification or documentation would not establish whether a dog is a service dog. 

To verify a service dog, there are only two questions allowed. Asking about the owner’s disability infringes on their privacy. Where is a Service Dog Allowed? 

Federal laws allow a service dog to go wherever their owner goes. This includes hotels, stores, movies, restaurants, airlines, and anywhere else typically accessible to the public. For example, service dogs can live with their owners in “no-pets allowed” housing due to the federal Fair Housing Act. Service dogs can also travel with their owners in the cabin of airplanes because of the Air Carrier Access Act. These federal laws also exempt service dog owners from any fees for housing, lodging, and travel typically applied to pets. 

When Can You Ask a Service Dog to Leave? 

Almost all service dogs are well-behaved and exceptionally trained, but they’re not always perfect. There are instances when service dogs may be removed from the area. The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations states that there are two reasons a service dog can be asked to leave the premises: 

If the service dog’s owner is not able to command the dog, and the dog is out of control.  If the service dog isn’t properly housebroken or if the dog urinates or defecates in an inappropriate area. 

If a service dog does not behave appropriately in public and is required to leave the area for any of the above reasons, the dog’s owner must be allowed to remain without the dog. If the service dog damages property, the business may charge the service dog owner for cleaning after the fact. Surcharges that usually apply to pets don’t apply to a service dog. Additionally, businesses can’t segregate service dogs and their owners from the rest of their patrons. 

A real service dog is always under its owner’s control and does not deviate from its tasks. Misrepresentation of Service Dogs

Although there is no federal law that penalizes fraudulent service dog owners, many states have laws against the misrepresentation of a service dog. Nevertheless, people still attempt to pass their pets as service dogs. Service dogs undergo hundreds of hours of training.

Well-trained service dogs are usually not disruptive, unruly, or aggressive. When interacting with the public, service dogs remain focused on their work. They receive training to avoid interactions with others unless necessary because distractions can be dangerous for their owners.

Service dogs do noble and vital work for people who have disabilities. It’s essential to verify service dogs correctly, to adhere to federal laws, and to respect the work that they do. 

The Sunshine State allows service dogs to travel, reside with, and perform daily living activities with their owners. The State of Florida aligns with the federal American Disabilities Act (ADA), which provides service dog owners the rights and privacy with their service dogs. These rights cannot be denied, regardless of the local jurisdiction laws or private business ownership rules. Anyone who uses a service dog for their disability in Florida is protected by these laws and are entitled to the use of their animal. 

What is a Service Dog? 

The ADA definition of a service dog is similar to the Florida Statute 413.08 definition. Florida Statute 413.08 defines a service animal as one that is “trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability… A service animal is not a pet.” These tasks are vital for the quality of life of the person with the disability. For instance, a service dog may help obtain a life-saving medication, guide the visually impaired, or help with mobility issues. 

How are Service Dogs Trained? 

Service dogs must be trained to perform a task that the person with a disability would otherwise be unable to perform themselves. Their training must be specific to the needs of the person with the disability. Service dogs can be trained through a professional canine trainer or by the dog owner themselves. 

If a trainer is training the service dog, Florida law allows them the full rights provided to a service dog owner during training sessions. They are allowed into public facilities and transport, just like service dog owners are. This will enable trainers the full ability to train a service dog well. 

Identification and Registration Requirements for the State of Florida

According to Florida Statute 413.08, documentation that a service animal is trained is not required. Although not mandatory, registration is recommended as it allows easier access to all public accommodations. Having identification and registration available, though not necessary, mitigates any unexpected problems or harassment.

To protect the service dog owner’s privacy, the public can not inquire about the nature of the service animal’s owner’s disability. They may only ask two questions:

Is this a service animal? What task has the animal been trained to perform?

Neither business nor private entities may ask personal questions such as:

Asking the owner to have the animals perform their assigned task as a demonstration. Asking the service dog owner declare their illness or disability.  Demanding documentation regarding registration or training.   Leash Requirements for Service Dogs

Florida laws require that a service animal must be under the control of its owner at all times. The service animal must be properly outfitted with supplies such as a leash, harness, or tether. If a leash, harness, or tether interferes with the tasks the dog must perform, then the dog must be under the owner’s control at all times through the owner’s voice or signal commands. 

Service Dog Behavior Requirements

Although a service dog is essential to their owner’s well-being, both ADA and Florida laws are explicit about their expectations for public safety. These include the following points:

Service dogs must be under the control of the owner at all times.  Service dogs can be removed or excluded from an area if the dog is out of control, is not appropriately housebroken, or is a safety issue for the public.  Fear of animals or allergies is not a justifiable reason for the exclusion of a service animal.  If a service animal must be removed for being a threat, the service dog owner must be provided the option of remaining without the service animal.  Damage caused by the service animal is the responsibility of the service animal’s owner. 

Any person who interferes with these rights may be subject to a misdemeanor of a second-degree in the state of Florida. 

In conjunction with federal law, Florida’s state law guarantees full support and protection for you and your service dog. Misrepresentation of a Service Dog

The state of Florida considers the misrepresentation of a service dog a second-degree misdemeanor. If a person knowingly presents themselves, in writing, verbally, or through their actions, as having a service dog and do not qualify as such, they may be subject to prosecution. 

Public Accommodation for Owners of Service Animals

“Public accommodation” is a broad term and, in short, means that people with service animals are allowed anywhere the general public is also invited. For instance, hotels, public transportation, and resorts are examples of areas where service animals are allowed.  

Safety of Service Animals in Florida

The service dog laws for the state of Florida are very similar to the federal regulations. Florida also goes the extra mile to protect its service animals, with laws against any interference or injury. These laws prohibit the obstruction, harm, or intimidation of a service animal by another person or an animal owned by that person. These actions are punishable as a misdemeanor in the first-degree or a felony of the third-degree, depending on the severity of the incident. 

Know Your Service Dog Rights and Requirements in Florida

Being knowledgeable about the rights and requirements of service animals in your state helps keep you and the service animals safe. Respecting the laws, providing the service animals the safe space to do their job, and establishing the correct qualifications can keep the integrity of service dogs intact. 

Service dogs are always working to ensure and protect the welfare of their human handler. Therefore, these dogs can experience and accumulate a lot of stress each day. It’s essential for handlers to recognize signs of stress for their service dogs, and to understand ways of preventing and lowering stress for these animals. This allows them to continue performing their tasks and duties under the highest conditions of health and wellness possible. Ensuring and protecting the welfare of service dogs is as important as the work they do for their humans.

Stress Signs for Service Dogs

Since they can’t communicate with words, service dogs exhibit signs of stress through their bodies and behaviors. Here is a list of stress signs to watch for in a service dog:

Eye/Look Indicators Avoiding eye contact Blinking Breaking eye contact Dilated eyes Frequent looks for direction Glazed look Looking away Quick eye movements Red eyes (sign of increased blood pressure) Showing whites of eyes (Whale Eye) Squinting Staring directly Mouth Indicators Air snapping Drooling Flicking tongue Licking lips Nose licking Panting too wide or shallow breathing Showing teeth Whiskers pricked forward or slicked back Yawning Head/Ear Indicators Burying head Ears held up Furrowed brow Laying ears back Quick head movements Scowling look Turning head away Uneven ears Vocal Indicators Barking excessively Growling Screaming Sharp yipping Whining Body Indicators Freezing Hiding Lowered tail (if this is unusual) Raised tail (if this is unusual) Shaking off Stiff posture or walk Stretching Trembling Turning away Other Indicators Bladder problems Bowel problems Chewing themselves Clenching toes Digging Excessive gas Hiding behind human partner Injuring self Leaning or bumping into human partner Lethargy Non-response Poking or shoving handler repeatedly Red pigmentation of skin, ears, or eyes Refusal to eat Scratching self Seeking attention Sniffing Spinning in circles Sweaty or moist paw prints on floor Unusually loose stool Weight loss How to Prevent Stress in Service Dogs

It’s essential to prevent stress in the life of any animal as much as possible. This is even more true for service dogs due to the fact that their lives are quite different from their pet dog counterparts.

Relaxation time not only compensates them for their service, but it allows their needs to be prioritized which can help to prevent stress. Relaxation periods should not be paired with working obligations but should be a time of freedom and play. This allows service dogs a much needed and deserved break from not only performing tasks but being at the ready to do so in each moment.

In addition to relaxation time, stress in service dogs can also be prevented through caring for their health and wellness. Since service dogs are committed and devoted to their human handlers, their own level of health and wellness must be excellent in terms of nutrition, veterinary care, grooming, etc. If the comprehensive health needs of service dogs are met, this allows them to perform their duties without the added stresses of feeling unwell physically, mentally, or emotionally.

Exercise is extremely important for the well-being of all dogs, and especially service dogs. Experts recommend at least 30 minutes per day of dedicated exercise for service dogs. Not only does exercise keep service dogs in good health, it also helps to prevent stress from building up throughout each day and over a prolonged period of attentive work.

How to Lower Stress in Service Dogs

There may be times when stress in service dogs in unpreventable and unavoidable. During these times, it’s essential to lower stress in service dogs as much as possible.

If you notice that a particular environment or set of circumstances is causing your service dog to show signs of stress, it’s wise to remove them from the situation if possible. This will give them a chance to regain their calm and focus. If there is a situation in which your service dog repeatedly reacts with stress signals, a different approach to training may be required for them to adjust without feeling anxious.

Do not attempt to comfort your dog if they are stressed. This may reinforce your service dog’s fear and they may react negatively to the stressor in the future. If you must show affection or praise, have your service dog perform a command or task first. Provide affection and praise when a desirable behavior has been displayed.

Some dogs may respond well to fast paced commands or “doodle work” when feeling stressed. The thinking behind this is that issuing quick simple commands can get your dog into a different mindset.


It’s important for handlers to be consistent and frequent in offering reinforcement. Service dogs are highly intuitive to their performance, and they rely on reinforcement from their human partner to understand that they are doing their job effectively. Reinforcement that is inconsistent or withheld can result in confusion, which leads to stress.

Overall, one of the best ways to lower stress in service dogs is for their handlers to cope with and react to stress in as calm a manner as possible. This can be very difficult for people with disabilities. However, service dogs are trained to monitor the slightest mood alterations or levels of stress in their human partners. Persistent, heightened stress on the part of their human handlers can result in persistent, heightened stress in service dogs. This level of stress takes its toll on the dog, their ability to perform tasks, and their overall well-being.