Service Dog Registration Of America

Is My Dog Required to Wear Any Identifying Clothes or a Harness?


Having a service dog can truly change your life. From guiding visually impaired people to turning on lights or alerting bystanders of a seizure, these animals truly perform amazing work. Around 500,000 people in the U.S use the support of a service dog. They don’t just drastically improve the lives of their owners but can be life-saving, too. 

Certified under the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service dog does not have to wear identifying clothes or a harness. This is entirely up to your discretion. However, there are times when apparel may help to protect you and your service dog. In this guide, we cover what you need to know about service dogs and identifying clothes or a harness.

What Is the Minimum Requirement of the Identifying Clothing?

As mentioned, your dog is not legally required to wear any clothing. However, the ADA does deem it a requirement for your service dog to be leashed, harnessed or tied up when in a public setting. This is unless the dog is supposed to be off its leash for particular service purposes. Then, the dog must be controlled by other means such as by voice. In a public place, these guidelines are in place to ensure that service dogs cause minimal disruption to the surroundings. It is also so the animal can remain focused on helping its owner. 

While there is no written requirement for a minimum amount of identifying clothing, a vest or a harness on your canine can benefit you both for the following reasons: 

Minimizes Unwanted Situations 

Businesses may kick up a fuss if they see a dog where there wouldn’t usually be one. If you walk into an establishment without at least an identifying vest on your dog, you may be harassed by employees and asked to leave. 

These businesses are prohibited by the ADA from asking a person with a disability and their accompanying service dog to leave any establishment open to the public. However, if the dog does not have a vest or collar, a business may not realize the dog is a service animal.

To save yourself being hassled or receiving complaints, putting the appropriate clothing on your dog may be a good idea in public. 

Distinguishes and Verifies Your Dog as a Service Animal 

When taking your dog out in public, identifying attire can alert others that your dog is there to help you with your daily activities. 

Many vests, harnesses, and collars are bright and distinguish the service dog as a working animal. Some also have an option here to show an ID card which can list an emergency contact of the owner. Under the ADA, you are not obligated to furnish proof of your canine being a service animal. However, the vest or ID card can be instantly recognized and distinguish your animal, thus lowering the chances of unwanted or even unsafe encounters. 

The use of fake service dogs is also rapidly on the rise. Fake service dogs can sometimes give themselves away with unprofessional and uncommon behavior. Although this is the case, you may want to have your back, and your canine’s, by ensuring the dog looks as legitimate as possible. This shouldn’t have to be the case, but unfortunately in a lot of places, it is. 

Alerts Others of an “Invisible” Disability

Some of the common disabilities for which service canines are used include blindness, deafness, PTSD, epilepsy, and autism. All of these are disabilities that cannot always be detected from the untrained eye. 

Service dog apparel can signal to others the status of your dog as a service animal. This will help strangers understand why it is you have your dog, and it may prompt them to be more mindful. For “invisible” disabilities, apparel alerting others to your dog’s purpose can help.   

Does It Need to Have Any Special Writing on It? 

There is no standard when it comes to service dog apparel. You can outfit your animal with a vest, collar, harness, or leash, but none of that needs any special writing. 

However, apparel with special writing also can be effective for several reasons. If the clothing has the appropriate and specific writing to your disability, then this will help. People who don’t know you should be able to see why you have the dog and avoid unhelpful behaviors. Businesses should also be understanding as to why you have an animal in their establishment. If they can see why it is you have your canine, they may then try and accommodate you and your needs, too. 

You can purchase vests and harnesses that say “Service Dog” on them. These are a good option for immediate notification to businesses and people in the public. The Service Animal Association state that most disability dogs have blue vests. 

You also might find clothing that has writing that is a bit more specific and informative to your disability or illness. These can be helpful if you have an ‘invisible’ disability. 

Not many stores sell disability-specific vests. However, there are plenty of places to get them online. You will want to try and do a bit of research before purchasing your vest. This is so it can fit your dog properly and appear legitimate. Shop around for options to purchase a vest with the appropriate writing.


If you’re new to owning a service dog, it can feel a bit unusual at first. Hopefully, it feels more liberating than worrying. Your dog will be trained to work professionally, and it will be well-behaved. This frees you to focus on living your best life. However, it is understandable that having an animal that makes you stand out from the crowd can cause unease at times. 

Whether your trusty canine should be wearing an ID vest or harness is up to you. However, we, and most other organizations, recommend you do. If your service animal is wearing some form of informative identification clothing, this will save you from unwanted hassle from members of the public.