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Are Dogs Allowed in Target? 2024 Update

Written by: Lindsey Lawson

Last Updated on May 6, 2024 by Dogster Team

poodle dogs outside a supermarket

Are Dogs Allowed in Target? 2024 Update

Our furry friends are more than just pets, they are family. So, of course, we want to bring them everywhere with us. You’ve likely noticed pups accompanying their people into plenty of public places, even if they shouldn’t be. Certain stores are completely pet-friendly, but others are restricted to service animals only. So, what about Target? Can you bring your doggo along for your Target run?

The short answer is no, Target does not allow you to bring in your pets while you shop. Only certified service animals are allowed to accompany their humans into the store—and for good reason. It’s important to understand why these types of policies are in place in Target and other retailers as well as the importance of leaving your pup at home unless it’s a pet-friendly establishment.


Why Are Only Service Animals Allowed in Target and Most Other Places?

While we understand your desire to have your dog by your side as you comb through the aisles of Target and other retail stores, there are rules in place for good reason. Service dogs are not considered pets, they are dogs individually trained to perform a task directly related to a person’s disability.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA1, “State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is allowed to go.”

There is a large difference between a trained service animal and a family pet, and these pet policies are in place for several reasons.

chocolate Labrador retriever service dog
Image Credit: Shine Caramia, Shutterstock

1. Real Service Animals Are Very Well Trained

The ADA states that a service animal must be under the control of its handler. They are required to be harnessed, leashed, or tethered unless the person’s disability prevents these devices or they interfere with the animal’s specific task. Even in that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective methods.

Service animals receive top-level training, including public access training, which teaches them how to behave properly in public. They are trained to remain calm and focused on their handler. They will not bark, jump, growl, wander, or appear out of control in any way.

The same cannot be said for pet dogs, as they are not trained in the same way service animals are. While some pets may be very well-behaved in public, others can become nervous and fearful and could cause problems in a store. It’s best for the safety of the dogs and other shoppers to keep your pets at home when you need to shop at a store that has this type of pet policy in place.

2. Health and Safety Regulations

State and local laws typically prohibit animals in grocery stores because food is prepared, stored, and sold in these types of businesses and animals can pose a sanitation risk. Of course, federal law does allow people with disabilities to bring their service dogs into grocery stores because they perform potentially life-saving duties for their handler.

sad pug dog with begging eyes
Image Credit: Iryna Kalamurza, Shutterstock

3. Pets Could Interfere with Service Animals

Bringing a dog into the store could potentially interfere with a service animal if they are in the store at the same time. The service animal has a job to do, and your pet dog only sees them as another dog. They may start barking, growling, or trying to interact with the service dog in some way, which doesn’t need to happen so the service dog can keep full focus on their handler.

4. Risk of Property Damage or Mess

As much as we love our dogs, we all know that they can cause destruction and mess. Bringing them into public means you are running the risk of them pooping or peeing in the store, grabbing things off the shelves, or knocking things over. This could mean cleaning up a mess or even having to pay for damages.

Even stores that allow dogs have rules that they should be well-behaved and leashed while in the store. Not every dog is well trained or suitable for being in stores even with more lax pet policies in place.

sad and sick labrador retriever dog
Image Credit: My July, Shutterstock

5. Common Courtesy

Unless you are in a pet-friendly establishment, it’s common courtesy to the employees and other shoppers to leave your dog at home unless they are a trained service animal. Some people have severe dog allergies, have a fear of dogs, or just prefer not to be around dogs when they are out and about.

Barking is another problematic behavior that can be very distracting or even debilitating to those who suffer from sensory processing issues. Service dogs are trained not to bark when in stores, but your average dog doesn’t have that kind of training and you can’t expect a dog not to bark, especially in an unfamiliar place full of strangers.

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What If My Dog Is My Emotional Support Animal?

An emotional support dog is different from a trained service dog. Emotional support dogs provide comfort to their owners who suffer from some form of mental illness, anxiety, or emotional distress of some kind. More often than not, these dogs are not trained to perform specific tasks related to their owner’s condition and are therefore not considered a service animal.

There are cases where service dogs provide support and have specific duties related to their handler’s mental illness, including certain tasks related to PTSD, or even training to remind their owner to take medication. If they are trained in public access and to perform a specific task, that’s a different story.

Landlords are often obligated to accommodate emotional support animals if there is a written note from a physician, even if they do not permit pets. However, this type of accommodation does not include public places like Target, Walmart, or other grocery stores and retailers that do not allow pets.

dog and owner supporting their heads
Image Credit: Anagarcia, Shutterstock

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Dog-Friendly Stores in the United States

So, you can’t bring your pup to Target and that may bum you out a bit. But don’t worry, there are plenty of other dog-friendly stores and establishments that will allow you to bring your pup along.

Keep in mind that the pet policies in these stores may vary by location. It’s important to check with your local store to make sure they do allow dogs before bringing your best friend along. You should also make sure your dog is well-behaved in public for the safety and health of others.

Top Retailers That Are Often Dog Friendly:



You may be limited to online shopping at Target from the comfort of your couch if you want your dog to be part of your shopping experience. There’s a good reason why Target and other retailers, especially those that carry groceries, have restrictions on pets.

Of course, well-trained service animals are permitted access to Target because they have important duties related to their handler’s disability, but dogs in general should stay at home unless you are visiting a pet-friendly establishment.

Related Reads:

Featured Image Credit By: filippo giuliani, Shutterstock

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