"Can I leave my Service Dog at home?" is one of the questions we get asked most frequently.
Many people think they have to take their Service Dog everywhere with them. This is not true.
There are places where Service Dogs are not allowed to go, and places where it isn't advisable to take them. Plus there are times when it is more convenient for you to leave them at home.
If you have a Service Dog it's important that you know all about the rules and regulations governing where you can and can't take them, because sometimes you might need to arrange to leave him at home and take a friend with you instead.
It's also important that you know how to prepare your Service Dog to be left at home.
Here's everything you need to know.
According to the Americans With Disabilities Act there are many places that are required by law to allow you to be accompanied by your Service Dog, even when pets are not allowed.
These include government offices, transportation, and "places of public accommodation" which is basically any kind of business that is open to the public such as restaurants, movie theaters, hotels, and stores.
Many people do not realize, however, that there are places that are exempt from the ADA regulations. This means some places are not required by law to let you bring your Service Dog and may not allow you to do so.
These include places of worship, private members clubs, some medical facilities that must remain sterile (including parts of the ER), and places where food is prepared as opposed to served.
When you get a Service Dog, it's important that you are fully informed about the places where you are not allowed to take them because you don't want to get into a situation where you aren't allowed your Service Dog if this could be dangerous for you.
When you're going to a place where your Service Dog isn't allowed, it's best to leave them at home. You can't depend on clinic staff, for example, taking care of your Service Dog while you see the Doctor.
For more details about places where you can and can't take your Service Dog, please click through to our guide.
In addition to the places where you can't take your Service Dog, there are some places that it isn't advisable to take them, even if they are allowed by law to accompany you.
If you're going to a place where your Service Dog might not be safe or might get distressed, it's better to leave them at home. For example, it isn't advisable to take them to a firework show, or somewhere with very loud music or crowds which they might find disorientating, and they could get injured.
There are also places where your Service Dog might cause a problem - such as if you're having dental treatment or an x-ray. Service Dogs are trained to help you if they think you are in distress. If you show fear when you're in the dentist's chair, for example, your Service Dog's instinct will be to try to get close to you to provide comfort which would not make it easy for the Dentist to do their job efficiently!
You should consider this too if you're going somewhere where you are likely to show fear, even if it's just for entertainment. If you're going to the movie theater to watch a scary movie, for example, or taking part in a recreational activity where you're likely to have a heightened level of adrenaline.
In addition, there are other occasions when it is advisable to leave your Service Dog at home, such as if they are ill or injured. Although your Service Dog loves being your companion, they are working hard all the time they are with you, so if they are sick or recovering they need to rest. On these occasions, if you still need to go out, you should leave them at home and arrange someone to go with you if necessary.
There are other occasions when it might be more convenient to leave them at home. If you're going to someone's home, for instance, and they have animals that aren't socialized, or you're going somewhere with someone who has an allergy.
You never know when an occasion is going to arise when it would be better to leave your Service Dog at home so it's a good idea to prepare.
How much time does your Service Dog currently spend with you? For many people, their Service Dog is their constant companion and they feel like a part of them is missing when they aren't there.
Remember, your Service Dog feels the same way and when you leave him, unlike you he doesn't understand the reason why it's necessary.
Separation training is important for all dogs, but particularly for Service Dogs because of the very special job they do for their human companions.
Work out the best routine to follow when you leave the house and do it every time you go out - even during your training period.
A typical routine might be to find a chew toy for your Service Dog and put it in his bed, make sure his water bowl is full, let him outside to relieve himself, and then say "Goodbye", pick up your keys and go out, locking the door.
Your Service Dog will get used to this routine during the training period. I always put a little peanut butter in a treat ball and put it in my dog's bed before I go out. Whenever that ball comes out, he knows I'm going!
Unfortunately, there isn't a hard and fast rule about how long you can leave a dog at home. All dogs are different and it will depend on a number of factors, including age, bladder control, and temperament.
The best way to gauge how long you can leave your Service Dog at home alone is to build up gradually.
The first time you leave them, go through your leaving home process including locking the door and walking away, wait 5 minutes, and then return home. Greet them as if you've been away for hours. Repeat this process frequently, staying away for longer each time.
If you are likely to have to leave them for an extended period, consider getting them used to a dog trainer or doggie daycare beforehand.
Some Service Dogs display symptoms of anxiety such as destructive behavior or barking when their companions leave them and it's important to address this, because sometimes you really can't take them with you.
If you think your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, go back in your training so you're only leaving them for 5 minutes and start building up the time you are away gradually again. Try some of the following:
If your dog continues to demonstrate symptoms of separation anxiety, consult a dog trainer. It's important you have the peace of mind to know you can leave them when you need to without them getting distressed.
Yes, you can. There is no legal requirement that you have to take a Service Dog everywhere with you or that you are not allowed to leave them alone.
Be sure to get your Service Dog used to being left at home before you really need to, that way you're both fully prepared.
We hope this answer some of your questions about life with a Service Dog. If you have other questions, or need help and advice about your Service Dog, please reach out. We've been helping people with Service Dogs for over 25 years. We'd love to help you too.