Caroline, a service dog trainer wearing a red jacket and red mask, helps provide education to her clients learning how to handle their service dog. Here she sits beside Koda, a sable standard poodle in training wearing a red cape.

The Role of Education

Service dogs play a vital role in the lives of individuals with disabilities. They provide invaluable assistance and support in navigating daily tasks and activities. However, despite the prevalence of service animals in society, there remains a widespread lack of understanding about their role and proper etiquette for interacting with them. While education and awareness are essential for promoting respect and inclusivity, the responsibility for educating the public about service dogs should not fall on the shoulders of disabled handlers.

Here’s why

Focus on Independence:

Disabled individuals relying on service dogs face numerous challenges daily due to their disabilities. The core duty of a service dog is aiding their handler with specific tasks and easing disability-related limitations. Imposing the task of educating the public burdens handlers, hindering their focus on personal needs and independence.

Respect for Privacy:

Disabled individuals have the right to privacy and autonomy, just like anyone else. Approaching handlers and asking for information can be intrusive and cause discomfort. Even moreso when they are already dealing with the challenges of navigating a disability in public spaces. It’s important to respect their boundaries and not assume that they are obligated to educate others about their service dogs.

Variation in Abilities:

Not all disabled individuals have the same level of knowledge or ability to educate the public about service dogs. Some have limited communication skills, cognitive impairments, or other challenges hindering public advocacy or outreach efforts. It’s unfair to burden those already navigating disabilities in a society often failing to adequately accommodate their needs.

Legal Protections:

Under the Alberta Service Dog Act and similar laws in other countries, service dog handlers are entitled to equal access to public spaces and accommodations. Businesses and members of the public have a legal obligation to respect the rights of individuals with disabilities and their service animals, regardless of whether the handler chooses to educate them about service dog etiquette. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse for discrimination or infringement of rights.

Community Responsibility:

Educating the public about service dogs is a collective responsibility that extends beyond individual handlers. Schools, businesses, civic organizations, and government agencies all have a role to play in promoting awareness and understanding of service animals and the rights of disabled individuals. By implementing training programs, informational resources, and public awareness campaigns, communities can create environments that are more inclusive and accommodating for everyone.

Let’s Summarize

To reiterate, while education and awareness are essential for promoting respect and inclusivity for disabled individuals and their service dogs, the responsibility for teaching the public should not rest on the shoulders of disabled handlers. It’s important to recognize and respect the autonomy and rights of individuals with disabilities, while also acknowledging the collective responsibility of society to create environments that are accessible, inclusive, and supportive for all.

Alberta has it’s own Service Dog system in place, and you can find out more on the Service Alberta website by clicking here. Questions can be directed to the program email:

We also invite you to reach out to us at Steadfast Dogs. While we aren’t always able to stop and answer questions while we’re in public ourselves, we are happy to help answer questions when we’re able. The best way to reach us is via email:

In case you missed it, we touched on the topic of distracting service dogs in a previous post here. We also discussed distracting their person here!

Krystal often wears a mischievous grin and has a penchant for shenanigans. She can be found frolicking in the garden and dodging responsibilities like they’re sprinklers on a summer day. She can be recalled easily with coffee bribes. Learn more about Krystal’s role at Steadfast Dogs here!