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Can Service Dogs Live with Non-Service Dogs?

A person in a pool wearing an orange swimming cap nose to nose with their brown and white dog that is wearing an orange service dog vest.

Most of us encounter service dogs often. However, a lot of people don’t know an awful lot about them. Some people even approach service dogs, unaware that there in the middle of some important work.

A lot of people ask, ‘can service dogs live with other untrained dogs’? The answer is somewhat complicated, it depends on the type of service dog and the context of the situation.

What is a Service Dog?

Service dogs are different from pets since they’re working for a living.

They are trained and distributed to provide a service, hence the name. They genuinely enjoy their jobs and they’re given plenty of time for relaxation. 

While there are many different types of service dogs, most are trained to work for someone with a disability in a variety of different settings. While that person might get an awful lot out of the companionship provided like any other dog owner, the relationship is different.

While service dogs get plenty of time off, they’re always alert. Even when they’re napping in public, they are trained to become alert to certain warning signs. This can make it difficult for some dogs to play with other untrained dogs.

Jobs Service Dogs Can Occupy

 and black German shepherd wearing a rescue service vest digging in a moA brownund of snow.

Service dogs provide a number of different services. These are some of the more common types.

  • Guide Dogs – Guide dogs provide assistance to their owners by helping them to navigate around to and from certain places as well as providing aid helping their owners complete their daily tasks, which means they don’t need any distractions.
  • Medical Alert Dogs – Medical Alert Dogs are trained to watch for signs of a medical emergency in their handler. These can include diabetes alert dogs, which are able to tell when their owner's blood sugar becomes too high or low.
  • Allergy Detection Dogs – These dogs are trained to detect the smells of food that contain the specific ingredients that cause extreme allergic reactions for their owners. When the dog becomes aware of the scent they signal their owner so that the handler knows to take a closer look or to ask questions about what is in the food. The dogs can also make their owners aware of the allergens that are around them and not necessarily what is on their plate.

Service Dogs are Not Considered Pets

Service dogs and their handlers are still allowed to have a close bond just like any normal pet and owner relationship, where this bond differs though, is how the dogs are handled. A dog that is adopted just because the owner has the desire for a dog is able to allow less strict training, that allows the dog to act somewhat more freely.

A service dog is trained to provide a service or ‘job’ meaning they are basically always working or at least always alert. This applies to their training and purpose but also their legal classification. They are legally classified as something separate. This comes with special circumstances.

Service dogs are trained to perform a very specific function for their owners. Pets have rules about what they can and can’t do but they are free to live how they want. If a pet feels like napping all day they can, a service dog can’t. Most pets are not trained to perform a task for their owners all day long.

A Black and tan German Shepherd sitting down looking back towards the camera wearing a black and orange service vest.

Can a Service Dog Live with an Untrained Dog?

Service dogs are distinctly different from pets, but does that mean they can’t be around pets? Well, despite their differences, service dogs still enjoy the company of other pets. However, it is a bit complicated.

Service Dogs and Pets Can Co-Exist With Certain Conditions

Overall, a lot of service dogs can live with untrained dogs and other pets, keep in mind though that it isn’t as simple as bringing home a new puppy. Since so much work goes into training these dogs, this is less than ideal without proper training.

A dog that is trained to provide a specific service living with a dog that has a more relaxed training could possibly start to pick up on habits that distract the service dog from doing their duties. Those habits could be one or more of the following:

  • Chewing - Pets tend to chew whatever they get their hands on. A service dog might pick up on how much fun this appears to be.
  • Barking – This is a behavior that encourages others to join in. When one dog barks,another takes notice. If a service dog lives with a pet that barks frequently they may end up barking too much themselves which is not ideal for a dog that is required to go to many places with their owner.
  • Begging – If a service dog sees a regular dog being rewarded when begging, they can pick this behavior hoping to gain the same reward as the other dog.
  • Attention - Having two dogs living together doesn’t work so well when one needs a particular type of training and attention. This can lead to confusion between the dogs, and one getting in the way of the other. A well-trained service dog that has plenty of reinforcement of their training might cope with this better.

Sold out

Service dogs largely need to be kept apart from other dogs unless they were trained in specific circumstances. This even applies to when they’re working. These are some things you can do to keep them separated.

Identify Them with a Vest

An identity vest will keep your service dog separate from other non-working dogs. A vest signals other people that the dog is working and they are not to be bothered, it also lets the people who are working in facilities or restaurants that the handler is in need of the dog’s services.

The more that people are aware that your dog is a working dog with strict duties, the more it will help keep your dog focused on that job.

Get Them an ID Card

An ID card isn’t a legal requirement for a service dog to perform their tasks. However, it can really cut down on problems. Fewer people will question the purpose of a service dog or validity.

Should You Let a Service Dog Live With Other Pets?

If you have a service dog and need them to be on high alert, then having them live with another dog may create more complications than benefits. The whole concept depends specifically on the function of the dog and their level of training. A service dog can be trained to perform their function despite the presence of another dog but this requires specialist training and some work to be done around the other pet.  

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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