A Handler's Responsibilities

A handler and guide dog stand near a cliff on a beach with plenty of driftwoodThe Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) protects a guide dog handler’s right to public access.  The ADA also outlines some responsibilities that come along with access rights.

Everybody wins when we guide dog handlers take a conscientious approach to working with the highly trained dogs that provide safe and effective mobility for us each and every day!

We can step out with confidence and pride by:

  • Keeping our guides healthy, clean and well-groomed.
    Following our own veterinarians’ advice, and providing our guide dogs with appropriate veterinary exams, regular heartworm preventative and immunizations, as well as keeping our guides clean, regularly brushed and flea-free, all go a long way toward enabling both dog and handler to put their best foot forward.   
  • Keeping our guides under our control and close to us at all times in public
    A well-behaved guide dog who remains quiet in, for instance, theaters and, who keeps its nose to itself around food, as well as in tight spaces such as elevators, is an asset to its handler in public settings.
  • Cleaning up after our guide dogs.
    Picking up after our guide dog has relieved is an act of good citizenship and it’s the right thing to do.


Conscientious guide dog handling pays off in many ways.  Maintaining a guide dog’s professional dignity through consistent and conscientious dog-handling enhances that handler’s dignity, as well as the reliability of the dog’s guide work. In addition, well-managed and well-cared for guide dogs are welcomed in public.

Excerpts from “Commonly Asked Questions About Service Animals in Places of Business”,
U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section:

  • “... The ADA requires ... businesses to allow people with disabilities to bring their service animals onto business premises in whatever areas customers are generally allowed.” 
  • “The service animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the facility where customers are normally allowed to go. An individual with a service animal may not be segregated from other customers.”

Some Helpful Reminders For Responsible Guide Dog Handling:

  • We are legally permitted to work our guide dogs in all public places and, at the same time, we are legally required to keep our guides under our supervision and control at all times.
  • Conscientious dog-handling means staying aware of our dogs, even while we are seated or engaged in activities other than walking about.  This ensures that our dogs are safe and not engaging in destructive or solicitous behaviors.
  • For the dog’s safety, and for the safety of others who might stumble over the dog, conscientious handlers keep their guides close and tucked under a chair or table while seated, for example, in a waiting room, in a meeting, or in a restaurant.
  • Even if sometimes embarrassing, it is a guide dog handler’s responsibility to appropriately correct the dog and regain control of the situation, if the guide displays aggressive or socially unacceptable behaviors.  A well-handled guide dog does not jump on or lunge at anyone.
  • Our guides work with us inside places that sell and serve food and drinks.  As a courtesy to others, and to reinforce good habits in our guides, conscientious handling dictates that the handler keep his/her guide dog close, and ensure that the dog does not steal, solicit or get into any food.
  • When riding in a vehicle, it is both safe and considerate for a guide dog to be seated on the floor whenever possible.

Excerpts from “Commonly Asked Questions About Service Animals in Places of Business”, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Disability Rights Section:

  • “... The care or supervision of a service animal is solely the responsibility of his or her owner.”
  • “You may exclude any animal, including a service animal, from your facility when that animal's behavior poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others. For example, any service animal that displays vicious behavior towards other guests or customers may be excluded. You may not make assumptions, however, about how a particular animal is likely to behave based on your past experience with other animals. Each situation must be considered individually.”
  • “Although a public accommodation may exclude any service animal that is out of control, it should give the individual with a disability who uses the service animal the option of continuing to enjoy its goods and services without having the service animal on the premises.”
  • “There may be a few circumstances when a public accommodation is not required to accommodate a service animal--that is, when doing so would result in a fundamental alteration to the nature of the business. Generally, this is not likely to occur in restaurants, hotels, retail stores, theaters, concert halls, and sports facilities. But when it does, for example, when a dog barks during a movie, the animal can be excluded.”

If you have further questions about service animals or other requirements of the ADA, you may call the U.S. Department of Justice's toll-free ADA Information Line at 800-514-0301 (voice) or 800-514-0383 (TDD).

Guide Dog Users, Inc. (GDUI) is an international organization dedicated to advocacy, peer support, public education and all aspects of training, working and living with dogs specially-trained to guide blind and visually-impaired people. GDUI does not train or place guide dogs, but acts as an independent resource network, providing information, support and advice concerning guide dogs, guide dog training and access laws to its members, the media and the public at large. GDUI is a special interest affiliate of the American Council of the Blind.