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Do Service Dogs Have To Be On Leash At All Times?

Two Golden Retrievers sitting next to a woman wearing a blue collard shirt and jeans

Service dogs are well-trained animals that many of us see regularly. A typical service dog is very focused and well behaved and often on leashes. This leads a lot of people to wonder do service dogs have to be on a leash at all times? Most of the time you will see service dogs on leads, but this isn't always the case. Whether they're allowed off of a leash all depends on what type of job they’re doing and the circumstances.

What are Service Dogs for?

Service dogs are dogs with a job! That is a simplification, but essentially they are dogs who are  providing a service to someone rather than just being a pet. They’re often recognizable from their behavior andhow they look.

A service dog is a dog that is needed by someone to help them live their life normally. They can have different types of jobs but each helps a person rather than just being a companion. They are well-trained and intelligent animals. These are some of the main things that service dogs help with:

Aiding with Issues Like

  • BlindnessService dogs for the blind might be one of the more recognizable jobs. Guide dogs help blind people to navigate the world around them, this includes finding obstacles and going from place to another.
  • Difficulty with MovementA mobility assistant dog helps people with mobility problems to get around, this can vary depending on the person’s requirement. They’re often seen assisting people in wheelchairs or with canes to get about their everyday life.
  • DiabetesDiabetic alert dogs can actually smell changes in blood glucose levels! Once they pick up on tell-tale signs for their handler’s saliva, they take steps to alert them or set off an alarm for medical attention.
  • Heart ConditionMedical alert dogs are also available to watch for warning signs with those who have heart conditions. They can set off an alarm or raise attention if they
  • PTSDA service dog for those with PTSD performs quite a few different roles. Their presence can help their handlers stay clam and reduce anxiety. They can also remind them to take medication, stop destructive behavior and give their handler a sense of ease.

Does a Service Dog Have to Be on A Leash at All Times?

Service dogs are quite different to other pets, but they’re still dogs! This means that they will often have to be on a leash in the same situations that other dogs do. Like any other well-trained dog, leashes aren’t always necessary but they are a good idea. The answer to do service dog shave to be on a leash at all times depends on their job and the circumstances.

Yes, Unless the Disability Specifically Makes Using a Leash Impossible 

Even service dogs have to obey the law! Service dogs have to follow the same leash laws as other dogs. If you’re in an area where a dog has to be on a leash, then a service dog has to be as well. Similarly, if a leash is going to help them do their job they may be on it all the time.

There are some exceptions though, if the service dog can’t be on a leash because of their join they can’t on a leash, or if the handler’s disability makes using a leash difficult.

Maintain Control of the Dog and Promoting Good Behaviour and Work Ethic

Even if a normal dog doesn’t have to be on a leash, usually a service dog does.A leash helps the handler keep control of the dog at all times. While service dogs are very well trained, it never hurts to be sure that they’re not going to get distracted. A leash also keeps them close and focused on their job. This helps service dogs maintain a good work ethic and it promotes good behavior from the dog.

Service Dogs Are Subjected to All the Same Leash Laws as a Normal Dog

Dogs are all required to follow some laws in public, even service dogs. All dogs have certain laws about where they can or can’t go. While service dogs are the exception to this rule, they aren’t exempt from everything.

Service dogs are subjected to the same rules and laws as normal dogs where they are applicable. Unless a law restraining a dog’s behavior directly interferes with a service dog doing its job, then they need to obey that law.

Service Dogs Should Be Trained to Not Pull on The Leash, Lag Behind, Circle or Forage 

A service dog might have to be on a leash like a normal dog, but they have a higher standard of behavior on the leash. Just because the leash keeps them close it doesn’t mean they can behave like a normal dog.

A service dog needs to be trained to not pull on their leash unless it is part of their job. Doing this could make it much harder for their handlers to get around. They also can’t lag behind or circle around smells in the crowd as this would distract them from the service they’re providing.

Control of the Dog is Required by the ADA

Service dogs are allowed some exceptions by the ADA, but as a compromise, they need to behave in a certain way. Service dogs need to be kept under control at all times, otherwise allowing them in places where dogs can’t go is going to be a problem. This means that  service dogs have to be on leashes unless it interferes with their jobs.

Exceptions To The Rule

There are a few exceptions to these rules. Primarily, when a dog is required to be off a leash to help their handler. These are some of the main exceptions.


A service animal that is helping someone with PTSD might be allowed off of their leash in places that others aren’t. This is to help their handlers with anxiety around new spaces. A service dog will enter an area by themselves, off of the leash, to check everything is safe. This will set the handler at ease and the dog is trained to not misbehave when searching an area on their own.

If The Owner is Down

This is an exception to the rule that applies to a lot of different service dogs. If their handler is down because of their health condition and in need of urgent attention, a service dog can leave on their own to find help. Since they are searching out someone to provide emergency attention, they are permitted to go anywhere alone when doing this.

Do Service Dogs Have to be Kept on a Leash at all Times?

Not all service dogs have to be on a leash at all times. However, for the most part, they will be on leashes. This helps them to behave properly and keeps their minds on their jobs. Sometimes they can go off of their leashes, although this is usually when their duties require it!

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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