What Do the Vest Colors Mean for Service Dogs?

A service dog's vest is an easy identifier to others that the dog is working and shouldn't be bothered or intentionally distracted. The vest indicates to theaters, restaurants, retail stores and other businesses that the dog is specially trained and allowed to go anywhere the person goes -- but its color doesn't signify anything beyond that.

Service dog pushing button for elevator with a man in a wheelchair
The vest color does not indicate the service provided.
credit: Huntstock/DisabilityImages/Getty Images

Service Dogs Defined

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service dog is a dog trained to assist a disabled person. Service dogs are certified and licensed by organizations that train dogs. Some states also provide state-regulated certifications.

Three major types of service dogs include guide dogs for the visually impaired, hearing dogs for the deaf and general service dogs who may perform various types of work to include mobility assistance and depression therapy.

Service Dog Vests

Service dog vests have no standard. Red, orange, blue and green vests are common service dog vest colors. The Service Animal Association website says most dogs in service for disabilities wear blue vests. The color of vest your dog wears may depend on your personal preference or on what color the certifying organization gives you.

Pets With Vests

You can purchase service dog vests on the Internet, but without proper training and paperwork, a pet dog with a service vest is not a service dog. Penalties for falsely identifying a dog as a service dog are in place in some jurisdictions, and they may include fines and jail time.