12 Common Misconceptions about Service Dogs Clarified

Our guest writer today recently saw a post here on Animal Bliss, “Difference Between Service Dogs and Assistance Dogs – Are They Legit?” Being a service dog trainer, Kaelynn Partlow graciously submitted this post for us, clearing up 12 of the most common misconceptions about service dogs.

Service Dog Misconceptions

1.  The most widespread misconception is that service dogs are “certified” or “registered” after completing their training.

Here in the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (among others), is the law that allows disabled individuals to utilize service animals. According to the ADA, the staff may ask two questions:

  • (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and
  • (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrates its ability to perform the work or task. There is no such thing as a legitimate ID card or certificate in the United States that “proves” a dog is a trained service dog. There are, however, many scam sites that claim that their products are not only legitimate but required. They are nothing more than a scam, seeing as one cannot buy into the federal law, that’s just not how it works. It is because of such scam sites that this misconception exists.

2.  Service dogs are only for the blind or deaf.

This used to be the case several years ago, but since then, trainers have discovered an amazing variety of disabilities that service dogs can help with. Today, service dogs are used by people with mental illnesses, autism, seizures, diabetes, and countless other conditions.

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3.  Training only takes a few months.

Technically speaking, training is never over. Service dogs must be able to learn new things and adapt to their handlers’ needs as they may change over time. Additionally, it is not uncommon for “fully trained” dogs to need a little bit of touch-up work on things they’ve already learned how to do. From start to finish, it takes about 2 years to train a service dog. It’s very expensive and time-consuming, but certainly worth it in the end!

4.  Service dogs work all the time and never get time to “just be a dog.”

This couldn’t be further from the truth! Being a working dog is arguably the best life a dog could have. They’re able to be with their handlers almost all the time, no matter where they go. They have a job and a purpose, and most get a higher quality of care than human companions.

5.  Bully breeds can’t be service dogs.

Actually, a dog of any breed, shape, size or color could be a service dog provided they had the right temperament and training. Businesses, services, and housing cannot legally deny a service dog solely based on breed. Many bully breeds make fantastic service dogs.

6.  People with service dogs are lucky because they get to bring their dog everywhere with them.

At first glance, it’s understandable why someone might think this. However, disabled people certainly do not see it that way. The dog is only there because the person has a disabling condition that impacts their major life functions. The purpose of the dog is so that the person can be more independent.

7.  Service dogs know if there are any drugs on you.

One might be surprised by the number of people who are fearful of service dogs because they think they’re there for narcotic detection. Technically, sure, the dog could probably smell it, but service dogs and detection dogs are completely different. The only person a service dog should be focused on is their handler anyways.

8.  It’s okay to pet a service dog if the handler isn’t looking.

In the service dog community, people who do this are called “drive-by petters.” They wait for the handler not to look, and they pet the dog as the walk by. Not only is this highly disrespectful, but it’s distracting to the dog who needs to be focused on working. Not to mention that in some cases, distracting a service dog is a crime.

9.  People with service dogs always want to chat.

Sometimes, I just want to get milk and go, it shouldn’t take 20 minutes just to get through the store. People who often have good intentions ask really rude and sometimes invasive questions just out of curiosity. Service dog handlers just want what other shoppers want, to get their things and go. Just because they have a dog doesn’t mean they want to share their life story with nosey people.

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10. Emotional support dogs are the same as service dogs.

There is a very clear legal difference between the two, and they shouldn’t be confused. An emotional support dog is legally defined as an untrained pet who emotionally supports its handler. With a doctors note, support dogs are allowed to fly in the cabin of an aircraft and live in no-pets housing free of charge. A service dog, however, is not legally defined as a pet — they are considered to be medical equipment, no different than a wheelchair or insulin pump. Service dogs must be specifically trained to do work or tasks relating to the mitigation of a person’s disability. Emotional support, comfort or calming effect, do not count as work or tasks for a service dog.

11.  Businesses are never allowed to ask that a service dog is removed.

Just like disabled people have rights, businesses do too. If a dog is out of control, acting aggressively, or not housebroken, a business can and should ask that the dog is removed.

12.  Any dog can be a service dog with training.

Most trainers agree that training is only half of what makes a good service dog. Genetics play a huge part in it as well. A service dog must be healthy and have a stable temperament to be able to do the work.

Thank you for reading! My hope is that some of these common misconceptions about service dogs that you harbored have been straightened out.



Guest Writer: Kaelynn Partlow is a service dog trainer. She teaches people with disabilities how to train their own service dogs. She started showing dogs in AKC dog shows when she was nine years old and her passion for training grew from there. In her free time, Kaelynn competes in obedience.


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6 thoughts on “12 Common Misconceptions about Service Dogs Clarified”

  1. I had my dog (in training, but generally well behaved) with me at PT, he got startled by another patient and barked twice. I immediately controlled him and his behavior settled and he whined. After PT I got a call that he is not welcome, he “barked and growled” at another patient.
    He barked, yes, he never growled or even left my side.
    Can they do that? I am in Oregon.

  2. I’m being discriminated against because my service dog barked at some workers blowing leaves at door. Hotel mng told me 3 times how they don’t do that. I have her in hotel for hurricane evacuation and she’s a dog they protect threat to masters home or hotel room. What legal options can I follow

  3. Hi Jeanne:

    I live in Seattle Washington, in Snohomish County.
    I want to ask you a question as a professional, I tried to search for info on Google and YouTube about this specific topic and I have not found absolutely the answer.

    I have had a service dog for more than 15 years due to PTSD, always used Dachshunds, this last one has 5 years old, I always train my dogs to assist me in case that nightmares or panic attack she helps me get back to normal, she is very well trained she goes with me to hospitals, restaurants, traveled by plane by boat I took her to my work also for medical appointments and I toke her to socialize in a park off the leash where she do very good too, absolutely has an impeccable behavior.

    She responds to the sign with my hand instead of talking (both) I use to live for 8 years on one floor with no people above us. Is a farm very quiet place

    Three months ago we moved to a new place, in a basement apt.
    The owners live upstairs and have three children. I heard all kinds of noises upstairs even the fork in a plate.

    The apartment has absolutely no insulation to minimize the noises between the two floors and every sound is transmitted. The children run stomping, yelling, jumping, throwing balls, using toys with wheels the lams on the ceiling vibrate, dragging chairs and unfortunately my bedroom is where their dining room is upstairs and every day at 6:30 start the noises and at 7 the kids start, running, stomping and yelling, during that time my dog is alert to all the noises and always there are about 8 hits on the floor like knocking the door that make my dog bark one or two times

    The landlords never told me about the noises levels downstairs.
    I explain all of this so you will understand better what is happening.

    When the kids start running, jumping, or stomping my dog get so much stress and anxiety, and the whole time that kids are doing noises my dog is speaking hear that and again this happens like 4 or 5 times a day, she starts barks trying to fallow the noises that she is hearing upstairs running from one place to another, but ones I got her she stop right away but I can tell she is acting completely different as before in the other house, in here she act very nervous, ahh another thing is that the floor creaks all over where the adults walk, creaks like the sound of breaking a thick branch. I had been recording all the noises I hear ) I can have proof of what I’m saying.

    My dog gets very disturbed with all this variety of noises, she is getting used to the steps and the floor creaks but the other noises it’s hard.
    During night time landlord walk until 1 or 2 am making the floor creaks, and the sound is very disturbing that wake us unexpectedly and then my dog bark one or 2 times, then I stop her and give love to get calm, and right away we back to sleep, but this is happening like 3 times at night. And my landlord told me that for a service animal this is unacceptable. So?

    My landlords are complaining about the barks and told me that services animal supposed not to bark, I told them that I’m totally agreed and told them that she is a great working dog and never bark or do bad behavior anywhere we go.

    I had talked with the landlords many times trying to they could understand or find solutions like outing pads on the dining chair and try to teach the kids to make fewer noises because believe me that the noises exceeded the sound levels even I play the audios to them so they can hear what I hear. and the only thing they just say is “ we’re trying and I’m sorry.

    What is your opinion about Service Astill being an animal so is there instinct to react barking to some strong noises over her head if she is at home. excited barking, not aggressive barking.

    Example: She never she a peacock in our backyard she was inside the apartment and looking through the window and got really excited and bark like for 5 sec then I tried to get calm and then she respond right away and just seating and watch.

    In all places, I go and read very carefully the information required for SA And in most places what I read is that if the dog is out of control and barks excessively have to be removed, and probably it’s a fake SA
    In airplanes, if for any reason the dog bark and owner have to be able to control the animal ( because they are still being an animal) we had been in a situation wherein an elevator or making a line in a bank another person comes with another SA and is very peace on mind to see that my dog have a great behave.

    So, the questions here are:

    — Service A can’t bark in-home one time or two?
    —Service a can be pet in-home, play with toys, go to a dog park?
    —SA is not able to bark at night time one or two because of noises on the roof or floor creaks?
    —Service animal can’t bark at a squirrel.
    —She can’t bark in our home if loud noises are disturbing her? A mean bark for 5 sec,

    I would like to have state or federal information that I can learn to modify the training if this is the case, or if really SA is NOT able to bark at all.
    Here I can find information about service dogs barks rules when we rent a house
    I pray that you are able to advise me or address me where or who can guide me in this situation.

    • Hi there. I read your question/comment and was curious if anyone responded to it because I am sort of having the same issues. My dog has always been well behaved, sweet, quiet, and just a good boy, but recently something has changed. He has started barking aggressively and lunging at strangers to where I’m being accused he isn’t a service dog and have been kicked out of two different hotels. He has never done this and don’t know what’s happening. I really need some advice and was hoping someone answered you if you could pass me any info that gave you. Thank you very much!

  4. Great post Jeanne and Kaelynn! It’s true that one learns something new all the time. I never knew that Service dogs are now used to help people with mental health issues.

    • That’s right, Vince. Dogs are important for people with mental issues. I’ve seen them work wonders with autistic children, for example, not to mention people who are depressed. Thanks for visiting my site today! All the best to you.


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