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.
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.
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.