Assistance dogs and public interaction: A question of etiquette?


People frequently ask ASDOG puppy raisers and recipients how they should treat assistance dogs and puppies-in-training when they meet them in public places.

Socialisation is a critical component of the ASDOG puppy raising and advanced training programs. All puppies must have exposure to a wide variety of dogs, adults, children and public places so they will readily and calmly accept new situations. However, the degree of public interaction must be monitored as an accredited assistance dog is required to comply with the Assistance Dogs International standard of not ‘soliciting attention, visiting or annoying any member of the general public’. The ASDOG Management Committee is most appreciative of members of the public who follow these basic guidelines:

  • ASDOG puppies and accredited assistance dogs enjoy pats and attention, but please ask permission before touching a dog. Your attention may be a distraction and prevent the dog from listening and/or tending to its handler.
  • Please do not use commands, call, whistle, or otherwise try to distract a working dog. Puppy raisers and recipients have been trained in the most effective ways to control their dog’s behaviour, and additional commands are confusing for the dog. Please only provide assistance if requested.
  • Please do not feed the dog. All dogs are on a feeding schedule and may even be on a special diet. Food is the ultimate distraction to a working dog and can jeopardise the working assistance dog team.
  • Speak to the person, not the assistance dog! Most handlers do not mind talking about their puppy or assistance dog if they have the time.


Please don’t be offended if the assistance dog partner or puppy raiser does not have time to stop and chat to you. Whilst we welcome enquiries and comments from the public, we do all lead busy lives, and we guarantee you are not the first person today who wants to ask questions or compliment the dog!

  • Don’t be afraid of the dog. Assistance dogs from organisations like Australian Support Dogs, Inc., and other members of Assistance Dogs International, are carefully tested for sound temperament and have been professionally trained to a high standard.

Business Owner or Operator

If you are a business owner or operator, you must allow an assistance dog and its handler the same access to your premises that you would give any other customer.

An assistance dog wearing a jacket is working and assisting a person with a disability to access the community safely & independently. People using an assistance dog are within their legal rights to enter all public places including restaurants, clubs, cafes, shops, as well as taxis and public transport. The Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW handles complaints of this nature under NSW legislation.

Assistance dogs are permitted entry to all premises under the:

  • Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Clth), s (9)
  • Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, ch 3, s 24(1)(b)
  • Companion Animals Act 1998 (NSW), ss (14) & (59)

How should an assistance dog behave in public?

ASDOG follows the Minimum Standards for Assistance Dogs in Public, as determined by Assistance Dogs International:

1. Public appropriateness

  • Dog is clean, well-groomed and does not have an offensive odour.
  • Dog does not urinate or defecate in inappropriate locations.


2. Behaviour

  • Dog does not solicit attention, visit or annoy any member of the general public.
  • Dog does not disrupt the normal course of business.
  • Dog does not vocalise unnecessarily, i.e. barking, growling or whining.
  • Dog shows no aggression towards people or other animals.
  • Dog does not solicit or steal food or other items from the general public.


3. Training

  • Dog is specifically trained to perform 3 or more tasks to mitigate aspects of the client’s disability.
  • Dog works calmly and quietly on harness, leash or other tether.
  • Dog is able to perform its tasks in public.
  • Dog must be able to lie quietly beside the handler without blocking aisles, doorways, etc.
  • Dog is trained to urinate and defecate on command.
  • Dog stays within 24″ of its handler at all times unless the nature of a trained task requires it to be working at a greater distance.