Assistance Dog Gear Guide

A resource to help Assistance Dog handlers navigate essential gear and purchases.
"Assistance Dog/s" is abbreviated to AD/ADs in some parts.
Safety Advisory: A fundamental aspect of being an Assistance Dog handler is prioritizing the well-being of the other half of your team. It's important to recognize that boots and cooling mats alone cannot shield your dog from the risk of heatstroke, just as boots and a coat are insufficient to prevent ice burns and discomfort in freezing temperatures. If weather conditions are extreme or if you are planning to visit an environment that presents potential hazards or unpredictability, it is strongly advised to exercise caution and consider leaving your pup in the safety of your home.


Vests are the most common "Uniform" of ADs and come in a wide variety of styles to suit the dog and handler's needs. Vests can be customized through various methods such as embroidery, heat transfer vinyl, or the inclusion of Velcro attachments. They can also be fitted with pockets to securely hold medical supplies or other small items. Additionally, safety features like reflective strips and high-visibility elements can be incorporated for enhanced visibility.
They are also designed, as a rule, to be easily fitted and removed no matter the handler's individual dexterity and ability. Vest prices vary a lot between makers and price is dependent on complexity, customization, and additional features. Generally, vests with vinyl tend to be more budget-friendly; however, it is worth noting that they may exhibit signs of wear at a faster rate when compared to their embroidered counterparts.


Collars are an affordable way to label your assistance dog, particularly while out on walks or at dog friendly events where handlers may prefer not to have their dogs fully in "work mode" but could still be at risk of health episodes. Assistance Dog collars come in a range of designs including embroidery, vinyl and custom printed options.


Capes are essentially a type of vest crafted for compatibility with other assistive equipment, such as mobility or guide harnesses.
This adaptability allows handlers who favor harnesses to add additional information or personal touches which  may not fit on a leash wrap.


Patches are available in three styles: Velcro-backed, iron-on, and sew-on. They're a great way to customize a set, proving especially beneficial for teams who frequently travel abroad and prefer to avoid purchasing multiple vests in different languages. Designs range from fairly basic through to intricately handcrafted leather pieces, accommodating a wide range of budgets. Some handlers choose to have 
"in training" patches attached to a vest, rather than directly onto the fabric, allowing for easy removal upon the dog's qualification.


During the warmer months, bandanas are a favored accessory among many handlers, providing a comfortable alternative to vests or harnesses for their dogs. They can be useful for small dog teams too, where a vest may not be obvious. Bandanas are available from a wide range of suppliers and have almost limitless options for text. Those with dogs in training may prefer to label with an "in training" bandana, and others use them to add a fun element to their setup.


Tactical harnesses represent a fusion of vest and harness elements, available in both straight-front and Y-front configurations, catering to a wide range of canine sizes. Tacticals are a popular choice due to their versatility and ability to handle wear and tear, as well as offering the flexibility of interchangeable patches. Many tactical harnesses incorporate loops for the convenient transport of lightweight items and feature a top-handle for close control.
Important Note: Tactical harnesses are not endorsed for mobility assistance. The handle is intended solely for light grounding while stationary, and it is advised not to use semi-rigid or rigid handles with this type of harness.


Leash wraps are a versatile, affordable piece of gear which will work for almost any team. Typically leash wraps are either finished with embroidery or vinyl but can be made with Velcro to attach patches. While some leash wraps are designed to slide over the leash, the majority feature snaps, also referred to as snap buttons or poppers, which mean the wrap comes apart and snaps together over the leash or handle. Many makers also offer mini wraps tailored for the shoulder straps on harnesses or traffic leashes, as well as wraps with internal pockets designed for the safekeeping of medical information.


Leashes are another great way of labelling your dog, either as an AD or with small amounts of additional information. They may be preferable for handlers who don't get along with leash wraps, handlers who prefer minimalist setups or with dogs who are too small to have an easily readable vest. AD leashes come in a range of styles including ribbon, vinyl and embroidered.


The subject of boots often sparks a heated debate within the community but they can be a great addition to your dog's wardrobe when used correctly and safely. Our dogs' paws aren't indestructible and even with the greatest care, sometimes accidents happen. Factors such as shattered glass, sharp objects, abrasive road grit, and potentially hazardous substances like antifreeze and pesticides can pose threats to their health and dogs who frequently work within densely populated areas may be at a higher risk of encountering such risks. 
Boots can serve a crucial function in extreme weather conditions as well, acting as a protective barrier against potential hazards such as hot tarmac and ice burns


Due to their limited number of sweat glands, dogs struggle to regulate their body temperature as effectively as humans. This makes heatstroke a significant concern, with potential risks arising from lower temperatures and shorter exposure periods than for people.

In particular, many handlers find cooling coats invaluable when traveling on public transport where air conditioning may not be present. It's important to check the advice given by gear creators before putting a cooling coat on underneath said gear. Some handlers have reported instances of vinyl lettering peeling from vests due to moisture transfer from the coat, and there is a possibility of gradual wear on some leather products if the sealant is not periodically reapplied. 

Some teams may prefer to opt for a cooling mat, offering the dog the choice to move away from the mat at their discretion. 




Photo Credit: 3B Designs

Assistance Dogs will wear eye protection when there is significant risk to their dog's safety or comfort. This may include certain workplaces or when outside in inclement weather conditions such as high winds or hail. One of the more common situations that may require eye protection for an assistance dog in the UK is for walking by roads after snow/freezing temperatures and the roads have been gritted/salted. The potential for grit and debris to be propelled by passing vehicles, or the dispersion of dissolved salt and water, poses a considerable risk of irritation and even chemical burns to the dog's eyes


Leather harnesses have maintained their prominence since the introduction of guide dogs. The durability and high quality of leather make it an excellent choice for public access work, as well as any weight-
bearing tasks. Various designs, including Y-Fronts, Straight Fronts, and Panel harnesses, are offered to cater to the team's preferences and requirements. Additionally, many handlers frequently appreciate the tactile benefits of leather due to its pliable and gentle texture.
Leather harnesses are also a great option for smaller dogs, as many conventional pet harnesses may not endure the extended hours and fluctuating weather conditions that assistance dogs will experience. While the initial cost of leather may be considered an investment, a correctly maintained leather harness is expected to last throughout a dog's entire working career.


Patch tabs are just that - a patch with a small tab at the top, either with a snap or hook, to attach to your personal items or your dog's harness. They are particularly useful for the summer months when it may be too warm for your dog to wear their usual working gear. Patch tabs have a range of uses, including adding important information about your health, ensuring your dog is clearly labelled as an AD or adding a very clear "Do Not Approach/Pet/Distract" symbol to your set. 


Settle Mats are a useful piece of kit for assistance dogs while out and about. They provide a portable "clean space" for a dog to lie on as well as providing a clear marker to indicate the area the dog should settle in. They can also provide some insulation and protection against the cold or heat, as well as offering extra padding for older dogs or more slight breeds like Sighthounds. Some makers may include insulating material to improve this. They come in a wide variety of styles and materials to suit a variety of needs and comfort levels. It can be noted however that the more comfortable they are for the dog, the more bulky they are for the handler to carry.


Snoods are a form of ear protection or cold weather wear. Depending on the material, Snoods can provide a small amount of sound muffling for dogs, which is useful in moderately noisy environments such as a cinema or open air event. This is about the same noise protection that a scarf or wooly hat may provide to a human. They are also useful in cold weather, especially for dogs with shorter coats or who feel the cold more such as sighthounds. Handlers of Poodles and other curly-coated dogs can use snoods to prevent the coat from becoming damp in wet weather. They can also prove beneficial in wet conditions with a dog that has long ears to keep them up and clean such as Spaniels.


Ear protection is vital if an Assistance Dog is being exposed to loud environments. Dogs can hear twice as many frequencies and at 4x the sensitivity of an adult human being and this means they are much more susceptible to environmental hearing loss. A good rule of thumb is if a small child or toddler would be advised to wear hearing protection (such as at an outdoor event with fireworks or loud music) or anything over around 80dB for more than an hour then it is time for safety rated hearing protection - or to leave your dog at home.

The two types are over ear and in ear - however in-ear may not be recommended if your dog is prone to ear infections so it's best to seek veterinary advice before using. It is possible to make your own using acoustic foam as well, but these will not be as effective or as safe as the professional models.


Page written & designed in collaboration with 3B Creations UK

Vest Topic Photo 1: Created & Provided by @Snoots_andboops

Vest Topic Photo 2: Created & Provided by Evergreen Gear

Collar Topic Photo: Created & Provided by Dottie's Pet Boutique

Cape Topic Photo: Provided by @fox.direwolf.phoenix / Harness and Handle by Emerald Wolf Gear / Cape by 3B Creations UK / Leash by Tuck's Creations

Patches Topic Photo: Provided and Manufactured by @Snoots_andboops / Designed by Emerald Wolf Gear

Bandanas Topic Photo 1: Created & Provided by Dottie's Pet Boutique

Bandanas Topic Photo 1: Created & Provided by Evergreen Gear

Tactical Topic Photo: Provided by @fox.direwolf.phoenix / Unknown harness brand / Patches by The Huggable Dog

Leash Wraps Topic Photo: Created & Provided by @Snoots_andboops

Leashes Topic Photo 1: Created & Provided by Evergreen Gear

Leashes Topic Photo 2: Created & Provided by Dottie's Pet Boutique

 Boots Topic Photo: Provided by @fox.direwolf.phoenix / Harness, Collar and Handle by Emerald Wolf Gear / Cape by Patience & Love / Leash by Dexil

Cooling Coats, Mats & Bandanas Photo 1: Provided by 3B Creations UK

Cooling Coats, Mats & Bandanas Photo 2: Provided by 3B Creations UK / Vest by Colan Ltd.

Doggles/Specs Topic Photo: Provided by 3B Creations UK / Specs by Rex Specs

Leather Harnesses Topic Photo 1: Provided by @fox.direwolf.phoenix / Harness and Handle by Emerald Wolf Gear 

Leather Harnesses Topic Photo 2: Provided by 3B Creations UK / Harness by YupCollars / Cape by 3B Creations UK

Patch Tabs Topic Photo 1: Provided & Created by Evergreen Gear

Patch Tabs Topic Photo 2: Provided & Created by Snoots_andboops

Settle Mats Topic Photo 1: Provided & Created by Evergreen Gear

Snoods Topic Photo: Provided by Fox.Direwolf.Phoenix / Snood created by Emerald Wolf Gear / Collar by Devil Dood Designs / Vest by Gangles Gear

Ear Protection Topic Photo: Provided by 3B Creations UK / Homemade Ear Protection by 3B Creations UK / Vest by Colan Ltd.