Do Service Dogs Have To Be On A Leash?

Service dogs are amazing animals that are specifically trained to aid people that need them. But do they have to be on a leash at all times?

In this article, we are going to explore this question as well as covering other areas related to this question. So, without further ado, let us get started!

Do Service Dogs Have To Be On A Leash?

What Are Service Dogs? 

According to the ADA a service dog is a dog that is specifically trained to work or perform certain tasks for a person that has a disability.

These tasks are only related to the person’s disability. This means that there are any number of service dogs that are trained to help people with a variety of conditions.

From a guide for the blind or vision impaired to a service dog that can deflect the blood sugar levels of someone that is diabetic.

These unsung heroes are the canines that are trained to help their handlers in a specific way. 

Who Qualifies For A Service Dog? 

We know by now that service dogs are canines that are trained to assist people with specific disabilities. But who qualifies for a service dog?

Let us take a look at the most common issues that can qualify you for a service dog: 

Blindness Or Vision Impaired

This is one of the most recognizable jobs for a service dog. Guide dogs are trained to help people that are blind or vision impaired to navigate the world around them.

This can include identifying obstacles around them and guiding their owner safely from one place to another

Mobility Difficulty

A service dog for this disability can vary depending on what the person needs. The most common places to see one of these service dogs are with people that use a wheelchair or a cane.

These dogs will assist their owner with their daily life. Often by fetching things for them or other tasks that are made more difficult with their mobility difficulties. 


Service dogs that are trained to help people with diabetes are often trained to smell when the glucose levels in the blood change.

When they detect this change they will attempt to alert their owner or to set off an alarm that will get the attention of medical professionals. 

Heart Conditions

Similarly, service dogs that are trained to help people with heart conditions are trained to watch out for signs that something is wrong and they will then alert their owner and also set off an alarm that will call medical professionals to the scene for help. 


Service dogs for those suffering from PTSD often have a lot of roles to undertake. They are there to keep their owner calm and help to reduce anxiety.

On top of that, they will also remind their owner to take medication, or even stop them from hurting themselves. 

Must A Service Dog Be On A Leash At All Times?

Must A Service Dog Be On A Leash At All Times?

The short answer to this question is that it depends on the job the dog is trained to do and what the circumstances are.

For the most part, while service dogs are considered working animals they are still dogs and this means that they should be on a leash in the same situations as a pet dog.

That being said, leashes are not always necessary. After all, even a service dog must obey the law. This means that they must follow the same rules that are applied to other dogs.

This of course may change depending on whether the person with a disability cannot use a leash effectively or if their job is something that cannot be done on a leash. 

So, unless you have a specific need for your dog to not be on a leash and it impedes the work that the dog is trained to do then it is a good rule of thumb to keep your dog on a leash at all times.

Make sure to check the rules and laws in your area as they may be different from state to state. 

There are of course exceptions to this rule. So, in what circumstances might the rules be different? 

PTSD Service Dogs

If a service dog is helping someone with PTSD it is likely that they will not be on a leash in places where other dogs usually are.

This is because the owner may have extreme anxiety about entering a new place. In cases like this their service dog will be allowed to enter an area on their own and assess whether that space is safe or not.

This will calm down the owner and allow them to enter that space without too much anxiety.

These dogs are very well-trained and will have been taught that they must not misbehave when they are searching that area on their own. 

The Owner Is Down

If the owner has an episode and falls down or they detect something happening they are usually permitted to leave their owner to find help.

In these emergencies, there are not usually issues with allowing the dog to go wherever they need to in order to get help and save their owner. 

There may be other circumstances where a service dog is required to not be on a leash. But this will depend on their conditions and what tasks the dog must perform for them.

Beautiful you are able to have your dog on a leash and they can do their job. It is recommended that you do so.

Even though your service dog is a hero they must abide by the law where necessary.

Final Thoughts

We hope that you have enjoyed learning all about service dogs and whether they need to be on a leash at all times or not.

Remember to respect service dogs and do not touch them. They are working animals and by distracting them you are not allowing them to do their job.

So before you pet them make sure to talk to the owner and find out if it is okay. 

We hope that you have a fantastic day and we will see you later!

Anna Granger
Latest posts by Anna Granger (see all)