Tale of Tails

AD Gear: Discussion


Main Question?
They Keep Staring to Reading the Millions of Comedy Patches
So Much Gear
Bright and Beautiful!

Assistance dog gear can often be the subject of hot topic.
What you should and shouldn’t use, wording, colours, patterns, and that is before we even touch on the subject of mobility gear.

Interested in your options in terms of types of gear to get context to this post? Click here to check out our Essential Items page, at the bottom you will find a list of Assistance Dog specific items. Before that is a list of general dog items which may also be mentioned in this post. You may also want to check out our blog post on Assistance Dog Vests.

Main Question?

Do I have to identify my dog as an assistance dog or in training?
Well the short answer is no. The law doesn’t state anywhere that the dog must be labelled as an assistance dog or similarly appropriate.
That said, the law does state that a premises has to give a reasonable adjust. Reasonable adjustments work both ways and depending on the premises I can’t see it unreasonable to expect an assistance dog to be identified visually as working dog. Be it a vest, cape, lead, collar, lead slip or flashing neon sign. You’ll also encounter far less access issues when you identify your dog as a working dog. Vests and capes being the most popular and widely accepted option.

There are two main labels of identification used, ‘Assistance Dog’ and ‘Assistance Dog in Training’. Although some people choose to use one of the following labels or something else entirely!

  • Alert Dog (in training)
  • Seizure Alert Dog (in training)
  • Seizure Response Dog (in training)
  • Medical Alert Dog (in training)
  • Medical Response Dog (in training)
  • Medical Assistance Dog (in training)
  • Guide Dog (in training)
  • Hearing Dog (in training)
  • Multipurpose Assistance Dog (in training)
  • Mobility Dog (in training)
  • Mobility Assistance Dog (in training)
  • Psychiatric Response Dog (in training)
  • Psychiatric Alert Dog (in training)
  • Psychiatric Assistance Dog (in training)
  • PTSD Response Dog (in training)
  • PTSD Alert Dog (in training)
  • PTSD Assistance Dog (in training)

The list honestly goes on but these are probably the most common labelling you will see.

Service Dog is sometimes used and although this is not the term used in the UK, legitimate working teams do use it. As do visiting teams from places like the USA. Check out our blog post about why labelling an Assistance Dog correctly matters in some respects (but not specific sub-types of Assistance Dog).

Which brings us to the next subject – patches!

They Keep Staring to Reading the Millions of Comedy Patches

Coming from the sarcasm queen (Elmiri) the idea of comedy patches is very alluring. Maybe to reference a favourite TV show or movie instead.

  • Lord of the Rings – “My Precious”
  • Harry Potter – “I am her Patoronus”
  • Harry Potter – “Undercover Animagus”
  • Harry Potter – “I Solemnly Swear My Body is Up To No Good”
  • Harry Potter – “Accio Spoons”
  • Finding Nemo – “Just Keep Swimming” (referring to do not touch)
  • Doctor Who – “K9 Patrol, Latest Model”
  • Star Trek – “Damn it Jim, I’m a assistance dog, not a petting zoo”
  • Rick and Morty – “Pickle Rick”
  • and more” (all I could think of…)

There are also helpful ones.

  • “Assistance Dog”
  • “Do Not Pet”
  • “Working Dog”
  • “Please Ask to Before Petting Me”
  • “Do Not Separate From Handler”
  • “Not All Disabilities are Visible”
  • “Handler has Invisible Disability”
  • “ICE Inside Pocket”
  • “Emergency Information Inside Pocket”
  • “Do Not Touch Handler”
  • “Please Give Us Space”
  • “Handler Allergic To _________” [nuts, gluten, cats, metal, dairy, etc]
  • “Handler Has ________” [diabetes, POTS, HR condition, Anxiety, Seizures, PTSD, EDS, selective mutism, Autism Spectrum Disorder etc]
  • “Handler is _______” [physically disabled, blind, deaf, etc]
  • Symbols of specific conditions & awareness ribbons
  • and more!

But at what point does it become inappropriate?

I feel I touch on this subject about professional image in “Bright and Beautiful” down lower (so I actually kind of wrote this blog from top, bottom then upwards) so I’m not going to prequel on that.
But here are some examples of what is either unacceptable, or could be perceived as unacceptable, or at least not approved of.

  • “Stop Staring, I’m not a Unicorn!”
  • “Pet Me and I’ll Pet You”
  • “I bite” or “We bite”
  • “Back Off”
  • “Pro Tip: Search google, ‘Service Dog Etiquette'”
  • “Questions? Fucking Google It”
  • “Allergic to Your Hands, Do Not Pet”
  • “Can I Pet Your Wheelchair? Says No One”
  • “Roll Your Eyes Any Harder and You Might Find Your Brain”
  • “Fuck Off”
  • “Piss Off”
  • “I May Look Calm But In My Head I’ve Already Killed You 3 Times”
  • “Eat Shit”
  • “Bitch Free Zone”
  • “My Give a Damn is Busted”
  • “I’m Afraid I’ve Given All My Fucks Today”
  • and more!

On top of inappropriate patches there is the issue of overcrowding vests or capes with patches. Therefore drowning out the original point of the vest of cape, being in alerting others to the fact you are a working dog team. At what point a vest becomes overcrowded may be a matter of opinion, in which case it’s best to probably keep that opinion to ourselves.

So Much Gear

When is too much too much?

Goggles, ear protection, boots, coat, mobility harness, cape, water bowl, medication, pull strap, bringsel.
Me personally. If I saw all that on one dog I’d be questioning it some. It’s a lot for a dog to wear and could be uncomfortable but at the same time…


So let’s talk about our own dogs, Eli for example. He is too small for carrying heavy items. Water bowl, medication, bringsel are probably too heavy for him to lug around all at once. We have to consider the weight of metal clips too and in proportion to his body size. Let’s say he can carry all that though.
Now it’s winter. It’s cold, I’m going to a concert, it’s a very windy day. I’ve got his goggles on to protect his eyes from the icy wind. His waterproof boots on from the cold, wet ground. His coat on from the cold and wind too. This is Eli so he’s probably hating the ear protection to be honest but other than that he’s doing good.
Now lets put all his winter stuff on AND the bowl, medication and a bringsel on him. Is it too much gear now?

It’s about being appropriate. He’s got all this winter gear on? Okay no problem, I’ll now carry his bowl, my medication and we can forgo the bringsel or attach it to the lead where I’m holding its weight.

I personally carry my medication and my dogs water bowl. That said if it was Po – who is far larger – and I only intend to have my phone and keys on me. I would be comfortable attaching a small water bowl to him. I can carry a water bottle for the both of us. Pop my medication in his zip or attach it to his vest. He is more than capable of carrying these things.

So what is too much gear?

Well a dog doesn’t need to wear 5 collars, 3 harnesses and 4 leads. Also it’s about recognising what you need and what your dog can handle. If you’re unsure then ask a friend or a few fellow members of the AD community for their opinion. Also take a lead from your dog – they may walk oddly or sit uncomfortably or look shut down (head hung low etc.) if they are wearing too much, or ill-fitting, gear so if your dog communicates well with their body language this may be a good marker. Some dogs however tolerate pretty much everything – but that doesn’t mean they should have to, so in that case you might need to use your own judgement or that of friends.

Bright and Beautiful!

Holographic, glittery, metallic, rainbow colours, crazy patterns, or maybe a favourite TV show?

The option on just how ‘in your face’ assistance dog gear can be is definitely split down the centre line in the online community. If you are part of an organisation you may not have a choice in what your dog wears.

Some opinions come down to disability. Not the handlers but the general public’s disabilities. What if they’re colour blind and can’t see the writing? What if they’re dyslexic and struggle to read already?

Well we hear a lot of “what if’s” already I think.

“What if someone is allergic to dogs?”
“What if someone is scared of dogs?”

What if is never a good reason but we can also see it from the other side.
If someone IS afraid or allergic to dogs, I will do my best to accommodate them. I’m not an arsehole, for lack of a better word.
If someone IS colour blind or dyslexic and they can’t read the vest, then I will tell them what it says. God knows enough people approach us anyways.

There is also the opinion of it not looking professional.

Now for risk of receiving all the hate messages before people read the entire post. I can understand people’s views on it not looking professional.

When you go into see your doctor do you expect them to be in a miniskirt, piercings all over their face, tattoos visible down their arms and a brightly coloured shirt with Pickle Rick proudly printed on it?

Now be aware I didn’t ask “would you be okay with” but that I asked “do you expect them”.

Yes I know, it’s outdated, it’s old fashioned, it’s discrimination! Well it may be but it still happens.

Restaurants, shops, cafes, car dealers, and your McDonald’s “What can I do for you today?” server are all wearing what is deemed a professional outfit and appearance.

I honestly have zero issues with a dog being dyed head to tail as long as the dog is comfortable, happy and safe. Which if the person is putting all that time into dying the dog I can promise you it is!

I honestly don’t care if you have a dog vest in bright glittery pink including a patch of hanky the chirstmas poo on it.

But I do expect the person to be prepared for the negative feedback and opinions of others. It’s very similar to the fact that having an assistance dog will put you in the public eye. You will be asked personal questions, you will have people enter your personal space and you will have rude individuals who believe you don’t need an assistance dog or it is a fake.
These people have no right to question you about your assistance dog, but that won’t stop them from asking or feeling they have a right to do so. It doesn’t mean we have to accept these inappropriate questions and ‘rollover’ as they say. But it does come with the territory, in the same sense that having bright and beautiful gear will come with the opinion that your dog looks unprofessional.

I personally prefer a simpler look for my dogs. The photographer and graphic designer kicks in and goes “this is what is easiest to view and read” and “I like this colour”.

Don’t be fooled though! Eli was dressed up in his reindeer outfit over Christmas last year, antlers and all! This year I’ll have to find something for the Prince to wear too!

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