Can You Have Two Service Dogs?

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Can You Have Two Service Dogs - Two Labrador Retriever Service Dog puppies rubbing noses.
Can I Have Two Service Dogs?

I’ve been raising and training service dog puppies for over 13 years and the question of one person bringing multiple working service dogs into a public place never crossed my mind until today.

A few weeks ago someone asked me “Can I have two service dogs?” After giving the question a little thought it made sense that individuals could require multiple service dogs.

For instance, an individual could have a visual impairment and diabetes requiring a guide dog and a diabetic alert dog. In this situation a person may require two service dogs.

Can You Have Two Service Dogs?

Question: Can You Have Two Service Dogs?

Answer: Yes. Some people with disabilities may use more than one service dog to perform different tasks.

In fact the American’s with Disabilities Act covers this exact question in their updated FAQ. Here’s the exact wording from the Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA:

Q: Can people bring more than one service animal into a public place?

A: Generally, yes. Some people with disabilities may use more than one service animal to perform different tasks.

For example, a person who has a visual disability and a seizure disorder may use one service animal to assist with way-finding and another that is trained as a seizure alert dog.

Other people may need two service animals for the same task, such as a person who needs two dogs to assist him or her with stability when walking.

Staff may ask the two permissible questions (See Question 7) about each of the dogs.

If both dogs can be accommodated, both should be allowed in.

In some circumstances, however, it may not be possible to accommodate more than one service animal.

For example, in a crowded small restaurant, only one dog may be able to fit under the table.

The only other place for the second dog would be in the aisle, which would block the space between tables. In this case, staff may request that one of the dogs be left outside.

FAQ about Service Animals and The ADA

While reading through the ADA documentation and looking for additional information by searching Google I came across some misinformation, specifically some people are getting Service Animals confused with Emotional Support Animals.

Service Animal vs Emotional Support Animal

What Is A Service Animal?

Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.

Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition.

The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual’s disability.

American’s with Disabilities Act

While not stated in the above quote from the ADA, miniature horses are the only other species that can be considered a service animal.

What Is An Emotional Support Animal?

An emotional support animal (ESA) is a companion animal which provides therapeutic benefit, such as alleviating or mitigating some symptoms of the disability, to an individual with a mental or psychiatric disability.

Emotional support animals are typically dogs and cats, but may include other animals.

Wikipedia gives a good definition of the difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal:

An emotional support animal differs from a service animal.

Service animals are trained to perform specific tasks (such as helping a blind person navigate), while emotional support animals receive no specific training, nor even, necessarily, any training at all. (It therefore stands that in the setting of mental illness, whether or not the animal is a “service animal” vs. an emotional support animal would hinge on whether or not it is formally trained to do something specific to mitigate the mental illness.)

Any animal that provides support, well-being, comfort, or aid, to an individual through companionship, unconditional positive regard, and affection may be regarded as an emotional support animal.

Emotional Support Animals – Wikipedia

Can a Dog be Trained for Both Guide and Service Work?

Now that we know you can have two service dogs. What if instead of having two service dogs you trained one dog to do multiple tasks to help with your disabilities. Would this be possible?

Question: Can a dog be trained for both guide work and service work?

Answer: Yes, you could definitely train a dog to perform guide work for visually impaired and also teach the same dog to do other specific tasks to help mitigate your disabilities such as mobility, scent detection, or other trained tasks.

A service animal is only required to perform one task to mitigate your disability this does not preclude your dog from performing multiple tasks to aid you with your disability.

Conclusion

So, to answer todays question. Yes, you can have two service dogs.

Ideally you’d probably be better off training your service dog to do multiple tasks to mitigate your disabilities. However, I understand this may not always be possible which is why the law allows more than one service dog.

My only concern with handling multiple service dogs is it may be very difficult for one person to manage.

As a service dog puppy raiser I sometimes find it difficult fitting one Labrador Retriever under the table when eating lunch. I couldn’t imagine two fidgety Labs playing pawsies (it’s like footsies only in the dog world) under the table.

I know there are all kinds of different scenarios I’m not thinking about. For instance the two Service Dogs could be smaller dogs that are much easier to manage.

And of course a well-behaved dog is much easier then the unpolished service dog puppies I’m used to raising.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.

Are you a service dog handler?

Do you have more than one service dog? If not, would you consider having multiple service dogs?

Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.

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Can You Have Two Service Dogs? - Two Service Dog puppies (yellow labrador retrievers) touching noses.
Can You Have Two Service Dog Puppies? – These Two Yellow Labs say YES!

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12 Comments

  1. I have two only bc I was planning on using the younger one when my first one isn’t up to the task bc he’s getting older now and tires out easier. Just bc he has an off day doesn’t mean my bloodwork isn’t going to get done. So its nice to have a second. BUT… she didn’t work out like my first. She’s smart. Does her job! But way to over protective when it comes to me. Ive tried to train her to ‘leave it’. But she’s not a ppl person. Ppl think if a dog is being trained its just going to work! Not all dogs make it inthe SD world! In fact I read 70% won’t make it. So if the dog u loved so much isn’t up to the task. It just means he or she will make the perfect lovable couch partner!

  2. I bet a lot depends on the actual dogs too. Some dogs might not share their handler well, perhaps. Not necessarily that they’d become possessive but they might shut down and just not work as well. Or they just can’t do their job as well with another working dog around.

    But I bet most dogs that are trained as guide or service dogs are pretty adaptable. When there are two working dogs both understand their clear role.

    I’m not sure if you covered this. Do most people who have a guide or service dog also have a family pet dog in the home? Or is that rare?

    1. I don’t know anyone personally with two service dogs, but yes I do think it would depend on the dogs.

      When Dublin was working his family had two pet dogs and Dublin. Now that Dublin is retired they have three pet dogs and a new guide dog at their house. I think it depends a lot on the guide dog handlers and they’re family. I know a lot of times when a handler lives only with their guide dog then they often only have the one dog. When the guide dog retires they usually do not keep the dog and it goes back to the puppy raiser.

      1. I heard this when we were getting a service dog! I refused to go with that company to train one for me bc I knew if I was going to spend every waking moment with my SD then I would be so attached that there would be NO WAY I could give it up. But thats just me. Nothing against anyone else. Please no haters! Lol

  3. I volunteered as a regional puppy coordinator for Guide Dogs of the Desert in Palm Springs, CA, for 12 years (the 90’s and touching on both ends) and during that time I raised 12 guide dogs myself, all of whom (miraculously in at least two cases) made it to become guide dogs. I helped to interview potential guide dogs raisers and place young puppies-in-training in raiser homes (often with 4-H students) who would raise and train the pups in basic obedience and socialize them to sights, sounds, surfaces, smells, and situations. I would schedule weekly obedience and socialization training sessions, e.g., going to a local McDonalds to have dinner, with the pups on down-stays under the tables and with strategically placed French fries and/or bits of hamburger on the floor near them to teach them to ignore floor food. At the time I was volunteering at GDD, they were often training dogs for persons with multiple disabilities (and at that time, I believe they were the only guide dog (for the blind) school specializing in doing that, although Canine Companions for Independence in Santa Rosa, CA, was individually modifying the training for every single individual dog (since they were dealing with a variety of disabilities other than blindness).

    1. Thank you for volunteering! That’s amazing that all 12 of your dogs made it as guide dogs. One of our coordinators had only 1 out of 10 of her dogs make it as guides. That’s great GDD was training for multiple disabilities. I know GDA recently merged with TLCAD, a service dog school and will be offering dogs for different disabilities other than the blind. Although I’m not sure if they will train individual dogs to mitigate multiple disabilities. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I have known people who have had multiple disabilities and their dogs were crosstrained to perform tasks to mitigate all of those disabilities. However if the dog was forced to retire from public work early due to a dog attack but could still work inside the home and needed to still feel useful it would work inside and the person would have a dog in training or fully trained to work outside in public to mitigate all of their disabilities. The benefit of this as it gives each of the dogs a break as the person in mind had multiple complex disabilities and the dogs were tasked to do very challenging jobs all day. Both dogs are still considered active service dogs.

    1. This is excellent! Thank you for sharing. I know there are a lot of situations that may require 2 or more service dogs and this is one I didn’t not know about or think of. Thank you again for sharing your experience.

  5. I hadn’t thought about someone having/needing two service dogs….so interesting. Do you think one service dog organization would provide both dogs for the person to make sure the dogs got along with each other?

    1. Great question! I would guess that a service dog organizations would most likely train a dog to perform multiple tasks rather than supply two service dogs.

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