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Are Service Dogs Ever Off-Duty?

Golden Lab Helps Blind Owner Across CrosswalkMost people will see service dogs around quite frequently. They often are wearing special badges to indicate their jobs. Everyone knows that you should not pet a service dog when you encounter one, it will distract them from their important job. Since they seem like such hard workers, many might wonder if they are ever off-duty?

What is a Service Dog?

If service dogs are ever off-duty depends upon the type of service dog. Different service dogs have different jobs and different training. Depending on what their job is, they will have different amounts of downtime. Service dogs each perform a specific function for their owner. They are highly trained dogs that capable of caring for or helping various people in a lot of different tasks. 

Different from a Therapy or Emotional Support Dog

In recent years, a lot more people have started using therapy or emotional support dogs. They are actually quite  different from service dogs. Service dogs are dogs that have been specifically trained to do a task. This can be a variety of different tasks, but the dog actively watching for a situation and relying on their training to perform a task. Emotional support and therapy dogs are dogs whose presence is beneficial, either physically or psychologically, to their handlers.

Types of Service Dogs

There are many different types of service dogs, each has a different task to perform. If service dogs are ever off duty depends on the type of work that they perform. These are the  main types of service dogs:

Guide Dogs

Guide dogs are one of the most commonly seen types of service dogs. They lead blind and visually impaired people around, alerting them to obstacles. These dogs are well trained and how blind people function properly.

Hearing Dogs

Hearing dogs function similarly to guide dogs. However, instead of helping the blind, they help the deaf and those with hearing impairments. They are trained to listen for noises like alarms, phones ringing, or anything else important, and alert their owner to the noise. They can then guide the person towards the noise.

Mobility Dogs

Mobility assistance dogs provide quite a different range of tasks for those who struggle with mobility. They can bring things to their owners, hit buttons to open automatic doors or operate ramps, and even provide support for someone to lift themselves upon after a fall or pull a wheelchair up a ramp. These dogs are also trained to call ambulances if their owner has fallen and needs some help.

Diabetic Alert Dogs

Diabetic alert service dogs are particularly talented dogs. They can smell their owners to pick up on changes in their blood sugar. With this information, they can then alert the human. This gives them time to treat themselves and check their blood sugar.

Seizure Dogs

Being able to predict a seizure before it happens is a particular type of natural ability that some dogs have. These dogs can then alert their owner and those around that a seizure is incoming. This particular type of service dog is a bit controversial, at the moment it is difficult to find a dog who can do this reliably. Various epilepsy groups disagree about the effectiveness.

Seizure response dogs are a different type of service dog that is able to respond to their owner’s seizure. These dogs can get help or call the police if their owner needs assistance.


FASD is a condition which affects children who were exposed to alcohol in the womb, a similar Drugs Exposure condition affects those exposed to drugs in the womb. Service dogs for children with FASD or Drug Exposure help to alert their owners to any safety concerns from their decreased mobility, and they assist with problems such as sensory overload. These service dogs aren’t performing as visible of a role, but they still do important work.

Allergy Alert Dogs

Allergy alert dogs help people suffering from extreme allergies by checking areas for traces of the allergen. These dogs do a job that only a dog, with their better sense of smell, could do. These dogs have a very talented sense of smell that helps their owners live a normal life.

Is a Service Dog Ever Off Duty?

Service dogs live a busy life. While many have long days, they get plenty of downtime. Some service dogs have entire periods when they don't have to work since their owner is otherwise occupied. Others that are on call in case something happens are usually always aware of what is happening. However, they aren't stressed about their work. Instead, this state of alertness is fun for them. They get plenty of downtime even if they are watching out for their owner.

The Private Life of a Service Dog

When service dogs are off duty, they behave like any other dog. Service dogs get up to a variety of things in their spare time. Some of them enjoy going on walks and playing like any other dogs, others enjoy relaxing somewhere comfy, playing with a toy or chew.

A service dog when it is off-duty is just like any other pet. They enjoy relaxing, getting some exercise, and playing.

Trained to Know When It Is Off Duty

You shouldn’t try to play with a service dog when it is on-duty. This is why you need to recognise when a dog is off-duty. Most service dogs will look just like any other pet when they’re off duty. Specifically, they won’t be wearing their specific  service dog equipment

Equipment for a Service Dog

This is the equipment that service dogs wear that you need to watch out for. We have a great  Ready-to-Wear Starter Kit that includes everything a service dog needs.

Collar Leash

A collar and leash is very basic equipment for a service dog. The collar lets the leash be attached to give the owner control of the dog and provides identification.


A vest is a very simple bit of equipment for a service dog that mainly serves to interact with the wider public. A vest lets anyone who runs into a service dog know that this dog is currently working and it would be inappropriate to fuss them at that time. 

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ID Badge

An ID badge on a service dog helps alert anyone close by to who the dog is and what their job is. If they’re training to find help for their owner, their ID badge will let anyone they find what type of help they need.

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Head Halter

A head halter is a bit of service dog equipment that allows the owner to communicate with their dog by a simple movement. When the dog's owner has a mobility issue, this is a vital bit of equipment. This really helps anyone communicate with their service dogs.


A harness is a different way to control a dog than a collar. Many pet owners use them for general walks. However, when on a service dog a harness can help them perform their job. If they are leading around a person, then a harness will allow them to do it without putting too much stress on their necks. This helps them perform better in their jobs.

Always Ready to be on The Clock

Many service dogs do have time off-duty, but they have to remain vigilant. A service dog is always on call to help out their owner. They have to be ready to come back on the clock whenever a problem presents itself. These well-trained dogs enjoy this life though, and they have the type of focus on a task that eludes most people.   

Meet The Author 

Jordan Ashley

Jordan Ashley

Canine Specialist & Writer

Jordan is an experienced author who enjoys writing about all things dog. He loves all animals and when he is not working he spends his time curled up with his two dogs playing video games and maybe enjoying a craft beer.

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