Do I Have To Pick up My Service Dog’s Poop?

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Over the years many people have asked me “Do I have to pick up my Service Dog’s poop?” What if I’m physically unable to pick up after my Service Dog?

I think this question arises every so often because a while back I wrote a post about who picks up Guide Dog poop?

In our article about Guide Dog poop we were specifically referring to the blind or visually impaired and how they were able to pick up after their Guide Dogs.

Do I Have To Pickup My Service Dog's Poop? - English Cream Golden Retriever puppy looking back in a squatting position.
Do I Have To Pickup My Service Dog’s Poop?

However, what happens if a Service Dog handler is physically unable to pick up poop. Are they governed by the same laws as every other dog owner and required to pick up their dog’s poop?

Do I Have To Pick Up My Service Dog’s Poop?

So, let’s get to today’s question:

Question: Do I have to pick up my Service Dog’s Poop?

Answer: Yes. A Service Dog handler is required to pick up after their Service Dog.

Okay, that’s the quick and easy answer, but like we mentioned earlier, what if the Service Dog handler is physically unable to pick up the poop?

Answer: The handler is still required to pick up the Service Dog poop.

The FAQ about Service Animals and the ADA offers some clarification.

Q9: Who is responsible for the care and supervision of a service animal?

A: The handler is responsible for caring for and supervising the service animal, which includes toileting, feeding, and grooming and veterinary care. Covered entities are not obligated to supervise or otherwise care for a service animal.

Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA

I’m assuming “caring” for the “toileting” of your Service Dog also includes picking up the poop.

That brings us to our next question:

How Does A Service Dog Handler Pick up Service Dog Poop?

While I was driving to the grocery store I saw a woman in her automatic wheelchair with a black Labrador Retriever wearing a service dog vest walking by her side.

Her black Lab was very well behaved and did a great heel alongside the wheelchair. Then I noticed he started to slow down and the leash got taut.

I knew what was coming next as the black Lab got into the squat position and began pooping on the sidewalk.

Based on my observation this woman was physically unable to pick up after her dog and was left in a precarious situation. What choice did she have, but to leave her dog’s defecation in the middle of the sidewalk?

Golden Retriever puppy in the squat position as if he's about to go poop.
Service Dog puppy about to go poop. Who is responsible for picking it up?

Over the years I’ve worked with and trained both Guide and Service Dog puppies. One thing we learned is how to take care of their pee and poop needs.

Here are some of the ways Service Dog handlers pick up after their Service Dogs:

1. Keep your Service Dog on a potty schedule.

Keeping track of when a dog eats, drinks, sleep, pees, and poops will give you a very good idea of when your dog will pee and poop next.

When we start working with our puppies we keep a puppy potty schedule to help us figure out when our pups will potty next.

2. Teach your Service Dog to potty on command.

When we bring our Service Dog puppies home at 8 weeks old we immediately start working with their potty command. At the Guide Dog school, we used the words “Get Busy” and at the Service Dog school we used “Better Go Now”.

I always considered this a life saver when bringing my dog to the shopping mall or into grocery stores. Knowing that you’re dog has just relieved before going into a public store gave me comfort that there wouldn’t be an embarrassing accident in the store.

3. Ask others for help if your Service Dog poops.

Not everyone is a dog lover, but there are many who would help pick up your Service Dog’s poop, especially for someone who is physically unable to pick up the poop.

Friends and family members are often willing to help with poopie situations. We’ve even had kind strangers who were nice enough to help pick up the poop.

4. Hands-Free Dog Poop Collector Product

You’ll probably laugh at this one. You could attach a hands-free dog poop collector product to your dog and not worry about leaving a mess.

Oh-kay, here’s the situation. We invited a Guide Dog user from Australia to our group meeting a few years back. It’s always great to hear new Guide Dog stories, especially from other schools, and as a special bonus, from down under!

We learned a few different commands they used with Australian Guide Dogs, how their dogs are trained, and where their names come from. It was very similar to what we teach our Guide Dogs here in the states.

Towards the end of our meeting, our Aussie guest wanted to show us how he took care of his Guide Dog’s poop. He used this little device attached to his Guide Dog’s tail that caught the poop before it hit the ground.

I sh** you not (pun intended)! Our jaws dropped to the floor. None of us had seen such a device let alone one used with a Guide Dog. I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or applaud. The device was innovative, but also looked a bit silly on a dog.

Anyhow, I’ll let you judge for yourself. While this isn’t the exact device he used it is very similar: Poochy Dog Poop Bag.

5. How Guide Dog Handlers Pickup Guide Dog Poop

Guide dog users to pet their dogs when they potty. They can tell by the arch in their dog’s back whether it’s #1 or #2.

If it’s a deuce then they are able to determine the general location of the poop based on where they were petting their dog and can successfully find their dog’s doodie.

Check out this article for more detailed information on who picks up Guide Dog poop?

Back to our story:

We left off with our black Lab pooping in the middle of the sidewalk and our handler physically unable to pick up the poop.

She sped off in her automatic wheelchair and I saw her talk to a young couple who then walked back to the poop spot and helped her pick up the dog poo.

Good job!

Conclusion

Looking back at my little story. Would I have been upset if this Service Dog handler did not pick up after her dog?

Not terribly because she was in a very tough situation.

What if she asked several people for help and got no help?

She could have done a lot of things correct like keeping her dog on a potty schedule, relieving him before he went out, etc., but he still may have had an accident on the sidewalk.

A few notes I’ve been taking over the years about potential pee and poop accidents in public places.

  • Have a plan when you are out with your Service Dog. Even the best-trained Service Dogs can have an accident. New situations can be nerve-racking for a dog and you never know when your dog will come down with a stomach virus…ours have.
  • Always be prepared and bring some poop bags, paper towels, and a small spray bottle with an enzymatic cleaner in your puppy travel bag. I like the Earth Rated poop bags and Rocco & Roxie cleaning spray.
  • Know your dog and have him on a schedule.
  • Observe your dog’s behavior.
  • Be mindful of your dog’s actions.

I hope all of this is helpful for you and your Service Dog. Let me know if you have any questions…or answers…

How about you?

Do you have a Service Dog?

How do you take care of your Service Dog’s business?

Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.

Do I Have To Pickup My Service Dog's Poop? - Golden Retrieve puppy looking back with back arched in the poop position ")
Do I Have To Pickup My Service Dog’s Poop even if I physically cannot?

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12 Comments

  1. We just moved in to a condo we bought and I have a service dog. We just got ticketed (after being here for over a month) because they told us our dog is not allowed to potty on the property (even though we clean up every time) and there is no designated areas for him to go. Can they legally do this?

  2. I like how you mentioned that the service will help you physically if you can’t do it yourself. My aunt mentioned to me last night that she is hoping to find a reliable dog poop pickup service as she’s not able to do it herself. I’m grateful for your advice about the importance of consulting a well-known dog poop pickup service that will help her with her inquiries.

  3. Great article thanks for this. Pretty incredible that guide dog owners are willing and able to pick up their dog’s poop given the difficulty. That puts a lot of other owners who don’t do it to shame. Just a heads up that your link to the guide dog poop collector on amazon is not working (broken link).

  4. Are service dogs taught to go on a small patio? I have a small patio and I am able to walk out to it but the grassy areas and the areas where they have decorative rocks and shrubs is impossible to get to without risking a fall. That’s happened before I sat on the ground behind a bush in these giant rocks for hours waiting for someone to help me get out of there and back up. Lesson learned! So I want a service dog and I think it would be great for me but it needs to go on the patio. My daughter’s big rhodesian ridge back refuses to use my patio so I let him go in front of my apartment and then when she comes back she cleans it up but it wouldn’t be an option for everyday multiple times a day so will it be possible or should I just forget about a service dog?

    1. We teach our service dog puppies to go on all different surfaces and locations. When I lived in my condo we regularly took our pups to potty on the patio area.

  5. I never even gave this a thought! It makes sense to me to give them a potty command, but I imagine, even then, there are times when a dog might have to go at a random time.

    What a great post, I am now prepared if someone comes up to me and asks me to pick up after their dog!

    I will also add, I did a post on a little contraption (I’ll call it a butt bag) that attached to the dog’s butt. Personally, I thought it was silly. 🙂

    1. I never thought about the potty command until I started raising guide dog puppies. I’ve never had problems with the puppies I’ve raised and trained, but I did have an accident when working with another raisers puppy. I think he got some anxiety working with another handler.

      Yes, I think most of the people in our group thought it was rather silly, but if you have a physical disability and this device helps pick up poop then I’m all for it!

  6. Good job to the owner though she is physically ill still she had a sound mind and responsible enough. Thanks for the additional info you gave.

    1. It’s so nice to see someone who can’t physically pick up the poop have the presence of mind to make sure it gets picked up. It such a great example for whoever has been leaving their dog’s poop in my front yard 🙁

  7. Interesting! I never thought about who would pick up the poop if the person physically couldn’t! I’m always the one that steps in it (my husband laughs at me). 🙂

    I like the hands free one…but I wonder how long it takes the dog to get used to using it? I feel like mine might fling the poop bag around and step in her own poop. Did the Australian people mention how they started using it with their dog?

    1. I don’t remember him saying how/when they started using the hands free pooper bag and I’m not even sure if it was something that the Guide Dog school recommended. It may have just been personal choice.

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