Published: 19 February 2024

Liggy in the Workplace

Liggy is my assistance dog, provided by the charity, Canine Partners Opens in new window. When I first brought her home, I wrote a blog post called Assistance Dog Etiquette Opens in new window, to help explain to other people in my world, how they should behave around her. That post was great in the beginning but Liggy is older now and things change, so I thought I should update the information.

What I am going to write here applies mostly to when Liggy comes into a workplace with me, but it does transfer to other environments too, such as shops and restaurants.

Task work

The jacket

When we're in the workplace, or any environment where dogs are not generally allowed, Liggy wears her Canine Partners jacket. This indicates that she is an assistance dog and has access rights. Her jacket is a sign to other people. It means nothing whatsoever to Liggy.

Unlike some other types of assistance dog, Liggy doesn't have on duty and off duty time. She is on duty all the time. The nature of her task work is unpredictable. I could need her at any time and she will always be ready to help me. That said, she is not actively doing tasks all the time. When she is not doing a task, she's on stand-by. She can sleep, rest, play and do normal doggy stuff. But as soon as I need her, she should switch her attention straight back to me.

Her tasks

Liggy is trained to carry out quite a lot of different tasks. Many of those are things that help me in the home... things like loading and unloading the washing machine, shutting doors, and lifting the footplate on my stairlift. In the workplace, here are the main tasks that she does:

It's really easy to notice when Liggy is doing the first three of these tasks. It's obvious to most people that these are task work. However, many people don't realise that the last two are also work to Liggy. How she moves in relation to my wheelchair, especially through doors and in lifts, actually takes more training and practice than any of her other tasks. Being able to switch appropriately between work mode and settle mode also takes years of practice and training.

Liggy settled between my wheelchair and a bench

If Liggy could talk, she would ask me to add a word from her here. She finds it really frustrating when humans do her tasks for her. She hates it when I drop something or knock something over and someone else goes to pick it up for me. Firstly, she loves helping me. Secondly, she's on a zero hours contract. She only gets paid for actual tasks completed. If you do the task, she doesn't get paid. (She gets paid in treats.) Humans sometimes try to protect her from choking on something they think she will try to eat. Liggy is really smart. She knows the difference between food and objects. She will eat food but never objects. She picks objects up and gives them to me.


The general rule around assistance dogs is not to distract them. Best practice is to totally ignore them. Don't make eye contact, don't make silly noises at them, don't touch them, etc.

Having said that, Liggy is a very sociable dog and loves human contact. I have found that appropriately timed petting can be an extremely valuable reward for her. So if she has settled quietly and not caused any issues whilst we have a lengthy meeting, the best way to reward her for this is to allow her some fuss time.

In some situations, I also find that she will settle more quickly and stay settled for longer, if she is allowed to greet people first. This is a tricky one because I can read her body language and instinctively know when it will and won't be helpful. So if I let her greet you before a meeting, please feel free to enjoy that. If I don't, please don't be offended. It's more about her than you.

The main things about petting her are these:



You should never feed an assistance dog. One of the most important aspects of the partnership between an assistance dog and their handler, is the bond. Having a close bond means that the dog will remain focussed on their handler even in distracting situations. All assistance dogs and handlers have different ways of creating and maintaining their bond, but a common feature is food.

Liggy is 100% Labrador. She is largely ruled by her tummy and her love of food. Whoever gives her food is the person she will devote all of her attention to. I have learned that other people can pet her, play with her and give her commands and this doesn't damage our bond at all. However, I know that if I allowed other people to feed her, this would have a negative effect.


Whilst protecting our bond is very important, this next thing is the most important reason of all for you not to feed Liggy. Liggy has multiple food allergies and some of them are really serious. If she eats something she is allergic to, she gets itchy rashes, liquid diarrhoea and vomiting. Certain foods also give her bad stomach ache.

Even most foods and treats that are designed for dogs, Liggy cannot eat. She is allergic to all meats, most fruit and vegetables and both gluten and dairy. Even the smallest amounts will make her ill, so as well as not feeding her, it is really helpful if people in my workplace are careful not to drop food on the floor by accident.


Many of the tasks that Liggy does involve standing on her back legs. Labradors can be prone to hip problems as they get older. One of the ways we can protect her hips is by keeping her weight under control. Liggy gets weighed regularly and I have to keep her weight within a tight range. If other people feed her, this is very difficult to control. All of Liggy's meals and treats are weighed out so that she has just the right amount to keep her healthy.


I love dogs and I totally understand if you do too. Petting a dog is only one way of showing you love them. Other ways are by letting them do their work, giving them space, and keeping them safe. Sometimes, the way you think I should keep her safe and the way we've been taught to keep each other safe are different. I'm going to stick with the things we know work for us. If you tell me it's okay to do something... move through a space that I know is too tight, get into or out of a lift in a certain way, or cross the road in front of a car... I'm probably going to offend you by doing what I know is right for us. I don't apologise for that. I ask for your understanding and that you respect the way we work together as a partnership.

One final word of warning. Humans pet dogs by stroking and fussing. Liggy pets humans mostly by licking them. The more she licks you, the more she feels she is showing her love for you. If you don't like being licked, don't start the game of love. She's very competitive and won't stop until you've been thoroughly slobbered on!

Good luck!