Many owners find it difficult to leave their beloved pets at home, when they have to go outside. Even more difficult would be for service dog owners to leave their furry friends at home, as service animals are supposed to accompany their handlers almost everywhere. As service dogs are trained to provide assistance for the benefit of people with different types of disabilities, they are a vital part of their owners’ lives.
Since service Dogs are a subject of the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) regulations you may wonder if there are rules that determine whether an owner can leave their service dog at home or not.
ADA does not have specific regulations in regard to this topic. Their current regulations do not require a handler to be accompanied by a service dog at all times. If a handler needs to take their service dog with them, while in public, they have the right to do it, as service dogs should be granted accommodation rights by business owners. Usually, a service dog constantly accompanies their handler, as he/she performs specific tasks for their benefit and helps them deal with the daily challenges. Of course, if the animal is a service dog for a child, he/she may be supposed to stay at home with the child.
However, depending on the situation a service dog may be left at home, i.e. when due to legitimate safety concerns, the presence of an animal may be prohibited. Facilities that require a strict sterilization, like food preparation facilities or surgery rooms, or private members clubs. Of course, a service dog may not be denied access to public spaces only because of his/her breed or the way he/she makes feel the business owner / employee.
There might be places that you may not want to take your service dog to, even if his/her presence may not be prohibited.
Events associated with very loud sounds like setting off fireworks or holding a concert could be harmful to your dog, as it he/she can get anxious and stressed or even get injured.
If you are having a medical treatment that you may feel afraid of, your service dog is likely to sense your feelings and to try to calm you down. This could interrupt the treatment that the medical practitioner is trying to provide. As mentioned above premises that must remain sterile, may not allow animals, even if they are service animals.
Sometimes even harmless events like movie watching can trigger a reaction in your dog. If you are feeling over-excited i.e. because of a very scary horror movie, your service dog is likely to make a physical contact to calm you and to reduce the excess amount of adrenaline. With that in mind, we would not recommend that you visit a theater or cinema accompanied by a service dog, when you expect your adrenaline to reach very high levels.
Visiting dog parks could be inappropriate for handlers, accompanied by their service dogs. Since the service dog needs to be focused on his/ her handler, he/she may be distracted by the other dogs and want to play with them. Every handler needs to have playtime with their service animal, however, a regular dog park may not be the most appropriate place for that.
If you enjoy visiting your friends you need to consider the presence of an animal in their home, when visiting them with your service animal. If your friends have a dog or other pet your service dog may want to play with them and get distracted, similar to the situation described above. Since a service dog is a working animal, he/she needs to be focused on you. A service animal needs to prevent harmful situations that may occur or to interfere with their handler’s unhealthy behavior when they are experiencing depression, anxiety, or PTSD.
However, you need to keep in mind that dogs, especially service dogs create a strong bond with their owners and tend to enjoy different activities. They like accompanying their owner wherever they go, exploring different places and facing different situations, as “exploring” is a natural part of dogs’ behavior. If you are wondering when your dog would feel better- at home or with you, while outside, the second option is the answer.
If a handler decides that it would be more appropriate to leave their service dog at home, they need to consider how to deal with the symptoms that may occur while the animal is not present.
When left at home, we would recommend that the dog stays in his/her crate with a new toy to play with or chew.
Since situations that require the dog to stay at home cannot be avoided, it is very important separation training to be provided. You may want to prepare your service dog for emergencies that may occur and to train him/her to not get stressed. We all know how stressful can be for both a handler and an animal if they have to spend time separated.
Some service dog owners may have a pet dog at home. Since service dogs are not deemed pets, and they have to follow strict rules both animals need to clearly understand the rules that apply to them. Fortunately, most dogs are adaptive to different situations and enjoy having tasks to fulfill.
A dog should be able to relieve him/herself at least three times a day when left at home. You may want to build a dog door that leads to the backyard. Unfortunately, this advice can be applied to houses with backyards only.
If you decide to take your service dog outside, and he/she is expected to enter a building, we would recommend that he/she goes potty before that.
We would say that it depends on the situation. If a dog is trained to calm their handler in a way that requires him/her to be on the bed or the couch, he/she may be allowed to stay there. However, you need to remember, that service animals are prohibited from couches and chairs in public spaces, which may be confusing for the animal. We would recommend that you establish strict rules that your service dog has to follow.
You may want to prevent your family members and/or child from playing with the service dog, while you are not at home. A service dog should create a bond as strong as possible with their handler and be able to fulfill their commands. All family members or housemates should be familiar with the rules the handler has established in regard to the training and raising of the service animal.