Identifying a Service Dog in Public: Top 10 Behaviors you’ll Notice from Both Dog and Handler 0

Have you ever seen someone with a Service Dog out at the mall or downtown and wondered what it does? Service Dogs can help people out in a variety of ways from acting as a detection system for a diabetic with blood sugar swings, to fetching their medicine out of the cabinet if they face mobility impairments. The training of Service Dogs can take a long time and is often very involved due to the extraordinary level of training they complete. Puppies sometimes start training at eight weeks old as they begin to familiarize themselves with their surroundings and learn commands.  


Companion Training® provides the nation’s “gold standard” testing system for Service Dog behavior. Our Public Access Test® establishes the criteria for a well-mannered Service Dog. It does not test the Service Dog’s task-oriented skills—such as opening doors or carrying things to help its hander—but concentrates instead on the Service Dog’s behavior in public. They also undergo task training which is specific to the disability of the person they will be assisting.  

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Service Dogs trained by Companion Training® wear blue vests and assist with a range of daily tasks that may be difficult, painful or impossible to perform for their handler. Below is a list of  the top 10 behaviors that a Service Dog and their handler should display while out in public: 

  1. Focus on their handler at all times unless doing trained task work.
  2. Possess a stable, even temperament without anxiety, reactivity or aggression of any kind.
  3. Walk nicely on a leash without pulling, straining, lunging, lagging, circling or forging.
  4. Remain quietly by their handler’s side when their handler stops without wandering or losing focus.
  5. Lay quietly under the table or beside their handler’s chair without getting up or moving around excessively. Changing positions is fine; outright breaking stays to respond or engage with distractions or to wander off is not.
  6. Ignore distractions.
  7. Be quiet at all times unless performing specific, trained task work. Outside of trained and necessary task work, there should be NO other vocalization, including, but not limited to, whining, grumbling, wooing, barking, growling, whimpering or other noise. Unless working, Service Dogs should be seen by the public and not heard.
  8. Keep his or her nose to his or her self at all times, even if there is food, products or other interesting things readily accessible. Exceptions to this rule would be Service Dogs who rely on their nose to perform their work. However, the Service Dog’s sniffing should be directly related to task work and not random or merely “exploring.”
  9. Respond quickly and readily to the handler’s commands, cues or directions. Service Dogs give off the appearance to anyone watching that they are highly trained and that they completely understand what’s being asked of them. Service Dogs possess outstanding obedience skills and above-average manners and both should be readily apparent. A Service Dog’s demeanor, training and behavior, without question, differentiate them from all but the best-trained pet dogs.
  10. Be able to do pertinent task work to mitigate their handler’s disability. In order to be considered a “Service Dog” under U.S. federal law, a dog must be partnered with an individual with a disability AND perform specific, trained task work to mitigate that disability.


Service dogs assist people who have health challenges such as mobility impairments, chronic fatigue issues, balance problems and many other health challenges. Please notice we do not use the word “disabled”. We train Service Dogs to help people improve their “abilities” not focus on disabilities. At Companion Training® our motto is “Choose ability, not disability”!

Companion Training offers Service Dog training in Boise, Idaho. We also help people with their Service Dog needs from all across the country. Get started today by scheduling a Consultation with one of our professionals by clicking on the “Contact” link above.


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