Service Dog Protocol

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Cathy Kowalski, service dog trainer for Freedom Service Dogs tells us about proper service dog etiquette.

Do’s and Don’ts: Service Dog Etiquette

  • Its ok to be friendly but if when you make eye contact and the person looks away or is working with their dog, it’s best not to approach.  Some people are not comfortable being approached by people they don’t know and they become anxious.
  • Look at body language - is the person uncomfortable?
  • Do not walk up and start petting a service dog - this is actually interfering with an assistance dog and is a Class 3 misdemeanor in Colorado.
  • You can ask to pet, it is at the discretion of the handler whether they would like their dog to be pet or not.
  • If a service dog handler allows everyone to pet the service dog, the dog starts to solicit attention which then interferes with their ability to help their client.
  • Many people have invisible disabilities - don’t make assumptions!  They may seem like they do not have a disability but this could be the first time they have been able to go out in public in many years because they are now accompanied by a service dog.
  • Watch your children - children should not run or walk up to any dog they don’t know
  • Always approach dogs from the side
  • Don’t stare at the dog


For Business Owners


Service Dogs by law are allowed in areas open to the general public unless a modification would fundamentally alter the nature of goods, services and facilities.

  • No extra charge can be levied because of the dog’s presence, but the dog user is liable for any damage the dog might cause to the premises as long as non-disabled customers are charged for the same types of damages.
  • If the dog’s behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, (the dog is out of control) you can ask them to remove the dog.
  • Service dogs should be clean.
  • The handler of the dog is responsible for all care, food, etc.
  • You cannot ask a person what their disability is.
  • You can ask if the dog is a service dog.
  • You can ask what tasks the dog performs for the person that mitigates their disability.
  • You cannot ask them to demonstrate these tasks.