Why I Said “That Dog Should NOT Be a Service Dog”

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Service Dog Aggression, Service Dog Fear, Service Dog Training

Nothing gets me cussed at and told off quicker than my reply when someone sends me an email about fixing their dog’s behavior problem because he “is” or they want him to “be” a Service Dog.

First off let’s be honest: I’m HONEST. I don’t really lie to people or tell them what they want to hear.

I believe that dog trainers should have ethics, morals and principles.  Although my job revolves around being good at what I do and making money, I prefer to have morals over telling people what they want to hear to just make money.

I Can Tell When A Dog Should Not Be A Service Dog.

I have worked in and around the Service Dog industry for over 20 years.

I have worked for numerous other Service Dog organizations, set up my own 501 (c)(3) nonprofit, worked for Assistance Dogs International and helped others set up Service Dog organizations appropriately.

I have VERY high standards for Service Dogs.

I have dropped dogs that I LOVED from multiple organizations because their behavior was lacking for what it takes to live in public all of the time.

I once had a cattle dog mix from the shelter that I loved.  He was learning all of the Service Dog commands, opening doors, turning on and off lights, pulling a wheelchair and was happy and pleasant with people in public.

However one day he climbed my fence and was sitting on my porch, as my neighbor approached, to tell me the dog had gotten out, he growled.

Service Dog Aggression, Service Dog Fear, Service Dog TrainingThat was it.  He had to be dropped.  He failed.  It broke my heart.

I could not, in good conscience place a dog with a disabled individual and HOPE he didn’t get protective, even though I had already seen the first sign.

Don’t worry, we found him a great pet home, but he didn’t deserve to be a Service Dog.

What would happen if he became increasingly protective and his disabled human fell out of their wheelchair (which happens fairly often) or needed Emergency Medical Services (which happens quite often).

I will tell you that police will shoot a dog that is threatening EMS because they won’t allow a person to die because the dog is afraid EMS will hurt their owner or they don’t want them in their house.   And, truthfully, they should.

So when people email me saying things like: “My dog hates men (women, children) but he is my Service Dog and goes in public with me. How can I socialize him and teach him to love men (women, children)?”

My immediate response is “That dog should NOT be a Service Dog”.

The dog can be taught to endure men, women or children but you can’t force a dog to like all men, women and children if they already don’t.

I recently had an email from a woman whose dog was terrified of children and would hide behind her whenever children were around or would approach her.

Yikes!

My mind pictures a child chasing that dog, tethered to the lady’s wheelchair around behind her because the kid wants to “pet the puppy”.  Once the dog is cornered and can’t get away it is a pretty likely assumption that the dog will lash out and bite the kid, probably in the face.  Because, after all, kid’s faces are lower and closer to dog mouths.

Service Dog Aggression, Service Dog Fear, Service Dog TrainingThis dog doesn’t WANT to be a Service Dog!

He is completely telling his owner this every time he runs and tries to hide.

He is overwhelmed, he is scared and I think we can all admit that children exist in this world and going out in public with a cute dog is going to bring them out of the woodwork.

It is really not fair to the dog.

But, most of the time, people refuse to listen to their dog.

The Percentage Is So Low

The percentage of dogs that can make it through a rigorous training program and health screening is extremely low.

Most dogs fail.

Even organizations that rely on decades worth of successful breeding programs, have more dogs fail than those that are successfully placed as Service Dogs.

Think About It

Service Dogs in Public Can’t

All of the aforementioned things can result in someone asking you to leave their establishment.

They Have To

  • Adhere to their obedience despite severe distraction
  • Endure overwhelming sounds and situations
  • Do several hour “down stays
  • Ride elevators
  • Ride escalators
  • Allow anyone to touch them and their partner

They get

  • Stepped on
  • Kicked
  • Yelled atService Dog Aggression, Service Dog Fear, Service Dog Training
  • Barked at
  • Stomped at
  • Grabbed
  • Tails pulled
  • Bumped
  • Thumped
  • Shut in doors
  • Paws rolled over by chairs, carts, and other objects
  • People get up in their face
  • People hug them
  • People kiss them

And that is even if you ask people not to touch them or use the “don’t pet me” patch!

I mean, imagine taking your dog to Chuck E. Cheese. How would he handle that environment?

How would you handle that environment with your dog to make sure he didn’t get hurt or overwhelmed?

These dogs have to be so well trained and absolutely “bomb proof”.

Most dogs don’t want to put up with any of those things on any of those lists.

Finding one that can do all of those things and WANTS to, is a rare gem!

The Liability

The liability for taking a dog out in public is HUGE.

You will learn that you can’t control people or the public. You can try, but as soon as you are doing something and avert your eyes, they will do whatever they want.

And it simply isn’t possible to keep your eye on your dog constantly.

So if you have a dog with fear or aggression issues, even small ones, you are risking being sued for everything you own.

You are also risking the life of your dog.

Public places are filled with all kinds of different people: men, women, and children of all shapes, sizes and colors.

There are also people with mental disabilities and challenges who understand nothing of dog behavior, and sometimes do inappropriate things to Service Dogs. Many adults and children are poorly behaved.

So if there is any question that is not purely “task training” related, that dog should not be a Service Dog!

 

Want To Learn How Train Your Dog To Be As Well-Behaved As A Service Dog?

Check out our 8 week class, where we walk you through how you can use Service Dog industries impulse control training process on your own dog to train your dog to be the ultimate companion dog.

Click here to learn this training process.

There are 23 Comments

  1. Jimmy Thomas says:

    Great article and thank you for your service. As a handler with a service dog, I appreciate your advocacy and for maintaining the highest standards. My buddy has vastly improved the quality of my life and I was blessed to receive him very well trained. We work daily to maintain that standard not only to pass the annual public access test, but to ensure his behaviour is beyond reproach in public. In fact, he fares better than I do in that department. Thanks again for your informative article.

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  2. Tan says:

    One thing I find having a service dog, it’s a lot more responsibility because training doesn’t stop just because the dog is now certified. It’s the grooming so their hair doesn’t end up in someone’s food when at a restaurant or smell. Vest clean, leashes clean, you are setting g an example for others with service dogs. I have a German Shepherd, only first responder on Vancouver Island with a service dog, so far, we been together five years, three and a half of that training before we were certified. My beef, every one I meet who has a dog tells me they are training theirs to be a service dog, one ends up they are training for therapy; yes there is a difference. They think their dog will be a good service dog, but just being with them for short time; they will say one of the things in this article; but I know nothing according to them because family and friends tell them what they want to hear or fly by night trainer.

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  3. Lj says:

    What would you advise an owner to do in extreme situations? My dog and I were in a very bad fire a year ago. Since then my dog has developed separation anxiety that has worsened to the point of where he is no longer doing work in public. He is comfortable in stores, still able to assist me and is good around the general public however, he is terrified of being outside. I made the hard decision to address this issue and stop bringing him out as a service dog because I wanted to do what’s best for my partner. The vet put him on medication and thinks with time his anxiety will lessen. Until that happens I don’t want to stress him out or force him to do anything. I just can’t stand seeing my 98 lbs boy standing with his tail tucked between his legs and shaking in fear. I’m wondering if in your experience a boy like mine can once again act like a service dog? He’s 2 and a half years old now and healthy, he was doing balance assist training quite well before the fire. I tried everything suggested from agility class to build up confidence again to more exercise and even a thunder coat before putting him on medication.

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    Minette Reply:

    I would take him to a veterinary behaviorist and see what their opinion is with medication and behavior modification. Each dog is different and they are the best apt to witness the behavior and give you an accurate assessment.

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  4. Nancy says:

    Excellent article and right on the mark! Our beloved dog is the best family dog ever but he would be a terrible service dog. Despite his devotion and brains, he has a huge timid streak that would give rise to unsound behaviors as an SD. He was a puppy we raised but he was dropped from the program because of temperament issues. As volunteer puppy raisers for an organization which provides dogs in various roles including SD’s, we appreciate that this group doesn’t go with a “mostly OK” attitude toward training. The worst scenario is when we get a call from a well-meaning soul who says, “We just bought a puppy to be a service dog for our special-needs child. Now what do we do. Will you train him?” Dogs are not programmable. I hope this article is shared far and wide.

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  5. Fiona says:

    Our family has had six guide dog puppies now, Three passed, two failed (one health, the other just loved water…) I agree they have to be bombproof, but it’s a combination of good breeding and early nurture which seems to help.
    Your posts have been very helpful and encouraging when we met strange situations, so keep up the education!

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  6. LZ says:

    I have a facility dog through a large well respected service dog organization. I try to educate others when we are approached while on field trips or when people visit our clinic. Thank you for the article so well written. I too have seen awesome dogs not make the cut because of one flaw in their character. They go on to be awesome dogs in other capacities.

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  7. Maria Schoff says:

    Thank you for such an awesome article. You really got to the nitty gritty points of explaining how a service dogs behavior should be in public. It doesn’t matter how well obedience training a persons dog behaves with family, children,and familiar friends within it’s surroundings. It’s taking these dogs out as untrained service dogs that cannot handle the public pressures trained service dogs endure everyday with their handlers. Unfortunately, people who think they can slap a vest on their dog to make it a service dog end up unruly, bark or even have the potential to bite due to the stressful environment these dogs are not trained to handle. It’s unfortunate the people who do this to their dogs ruin it for those who are disabled including myself that require service dogs. They need to realize these dogs are not pets. They are a medical necessity. Do you think these people realize we didn’t ask for our disabilities. We didn’t ask to use canes, crutches, wheelchairs, braces for legs, arms, backs. We didn’t ask to have PTSD/mental illness, hearing impaired or even autism or epilepsy, diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease. Service dogs are meant to be trained to help with the disabled not for anyone who wants their pet dog to be with because they see us with a service dog. Please understand the right dog goes under rigorous training in order to help the disabled and is able to handle the public unlike a pet dog.

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  8. Kim Wilsn says:

    Love your article! I received my third service dog, Tansy, about 1 1/2 years ago. I cannot believe the surge in outright frauds and those who want to believe so very badly that their ESA ( their PET, really ) can go everywhere a real Service Dog does. In the past, and even now, my SD and I have been charged, barked and lunged at, and even snapped at. One little unleashed purse dog actually came running after us and almost got ahold of one my dog’s hind legs! The owner of said dog declared,”Wow! That’s a BIG one'”. To which I replied, “Yes, but mine is LEGAL!” I did speak to the store manager, and they tried to find her to ask her to leave.
    The only point of your article I would ask about is my dog can be asked to leave is she vomits…I wouldn’t stay if she were getting sick, and I would make sure I cleaned up after her. To me it’s kind of sad you had to add that to your list, as any handler should remove the dog on their own.

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  9. Sandy says:

    Thank You for your imformation.

    I wish every state would creatate and pass out laws governing service dogs and companion dogs. I am so tired of dogs in stores restaurants and other public places that are not working dogs. I was Blessed to have had the company of a trained service dog that failed because he was food aggressive. I also discovered he just didn’t care for children and other dogs. He was a great gental man I enjoyed his company miss he greatly.

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  10. Nancy johnson says:

    My husband and my self have raised and trained 9 service dogs 1 guide dog he made the grade and 8 canine companion for Independence 7 made the grade 1 did not Scooter is know our pet and he is such a great dog🐾🐾👍 thanks for your article it’s great. I see so many fake service dogs makes me sad. Getting ready to raise another CCI puppy

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    Minette Reply:

    Good for you!

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  11. Diane says:

    I’ve seen so many people who claim their dog is an “emotional support dog” so they can take their pet into stores, restaurants, libraries, and so on.. And I suspect that many individuals who want their animal to “be a service dog” don’t want that at all – they want to be able to take their pet anywhere they like. It bothers me because it diminishes real service dogs and the people who truly need them.

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  12. Dee says:

    As a handler of a service dog from a reputable organization, I am more and more, questioned from people whether I “slapped a vest on my pet because I couldn’t bear to be without her.” To which I reply that she is a highly trained service dog; observe for 2 minutes &!you’ll notice the difference… the other concern is this that you wrote about. At an amusement park, another patron’s dog (walking 6′ out in front of the handler) charged and barked at mine who was at my side. it was a scary situation, and happens more frequently.

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  13. Casey says:

    Do reading dogs have to be fully trained service dogs

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    Minette Reply:

    Not usually, no.

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  14. Jinjer LeVan says:

    Excellent article. On my 3rd service dog and consult on training, and this was spot on. Need to send this to Dept. of Justice to rewrite ADA guidelines, which on last update left emotional support animal field way to open to interpretation.

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  15. Chyrl says:

    My biggest pet peeve is dogs that are trained & sold as service dogs that should never have been passed as a service dog. The poor owner’s think their dog is great b/c they don’t know any better. Meanwhile, at a restaurant the dog is soliciting pets from strangers and begging at the table. Smh

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  16. Linda says:

    Great things to know about the serve dog . Does any dog that has been trained and passes all the tests Can The dog be put with any master (person in need) ? Will the dog get along with anyone?

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  17. Teresa says:

    Great article. I am currently trying to find a trainer for my dog. Do you recommend the course “service dog course sale page” that is on your article? I have a place that will pay for it but we are in Alaska and finding a good trainer has been difficult. Most are full or have a bad reputation. I have balance issues and PTSD. The dog has tried to save me from falls and will allow me to use to him get up and down. He licks me when I have an attack. He loves people in public (we only currently go to stores that allow dogs). He’s a year old. We have been through puppy and obedience classes. He is great with the groomers and loves other dogs. At what point should I be stepping up the training on my own or send him to a trainer (if and when I find one)? He just turned a year old. He is a Doberman. Is there anyone you could suggest in Alaska or training I could do to train him better?

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    Minette Reply:

    the companion dog program will give you a good foundation, however we cannot, of course, guarantee that your dog will be successful as a service dog

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