Maybe, a service dog isn’t the right tool for you.

Mac and Abi overlook Epcot

Stay with me. It’s phrase I’ve found myself saying to clients and potential clients more frequently lately. “Have you considered that perhaps a Service Dog just isn’t the right tool for you?”

Why is this so shocking? Why are we so horrified whenever it’s mentioned? There are plethoras of treatment options and medications that are simply not the right fit for an individual for a myriad of reasons. Why should this one be any different?

I recently had a client come to my office with her Service Dog. She obtained the dog from a shelter and had done most of the training herself and with the help of another trainer. The dog has basic training but is very green. The client is a young female with a very serious anxiety disorder. She presented to me seeking help because any and every time a member of the public approaches she and her dog, she (the human) begins to panic, hyperventilate, and becomes mute. She was hoping I could help teach her dog a skill to mitigate this. She was also hoping I could help her know how to “stop people from approaching me and my dog in public.” My heart broke for her. This was clearly someone who firmly met the ADA qualifications for disability. She, unfortunately, had an undereducated doctor and psychiatrist about the realities of working a dog in public. She was desperate. She was exhausted. Her dog was a sweet pet and moderately well behaved but very inexperienced. The reality was — A public access service dog was not the right tool for this individual. It likely would never be, and it certainly would not be in the near future. This individual would likely need months/years of treatment with her mental and behavioral healthcare team before a Service Dog should even be considered as a helpful tool for her.

Service Dogs bring an increase in attention and stress in public for which vast majority of newly inquiring disabled individuals are simply not at all prepared.

I am seeing a very disturbing trend on social media and in inquiries to professional colleagues for dogs that are requested for replacing major medical equipment. Service Dogs are never meant to replace a mobility aids such as a cane, walker, or wheelchair. They are never meant to replace the need for a human or motor to propel your wheelchair. They are never meant to negate the need for shower bars, bed stabilizers, or railings. Dogs, of ANY breed, size, or type, are not meant to be long-term physical mobility stabilizers. If that is what you are seeking, THIS ISN’T THE RIGHT TOOL FOR YOU. Regardless of breed, size, etc.

I believe that social media, mine included, has presented a false image of Service Dogs to the general public and to disabled individuals who are inquiring about these special animals. We, as a community, have allowed the general public to believe several major untruths:

  1. Many different types of dogs from many different types of situations can easily become service dogs.

While I am a huge supporter of several different types of breeds for different needs as Service Dogs, it is important to be careful with how we present that to the general public. Not all breed are equally tasked for the job. Different breeds have been bred for hundreds or thousands of years for different traits, we need to be aware of that. Additionally, genetics matter. While it’s absolutely possible to have a very behaviorally resilient dog from unknown genetics, it is just that – unknown. But alas, that’s it’s own topic for it’s own day. Here is the main point: There is NOTHING as heartbreaking to me as a disabled individual, who is deeply in need of a Service Dog, who could be incredibly helped by a Service Dog, who presents to me for an assessment with a dog who is wholly and completely unqualified due to health or temperament. Or, even worse (but equally as common), they present to me after spending thousands of dollars with another trainer only to have that dog break down behaviorally or physically. This must stop. That dog is simple not the right tool. A better suited dog may absolutely be the right tool, but not without a lot of suffering for the disabled individual on funds and mourning the change in plans for their existing dog.

2. A Service Dog can be helpful to almost any disability and always make it better, never worse

This is the greatest untruth I’m seeing lately. There are some disabilities that absolutely cannot be helped by a Service Dog.

There are MANY situations where a Service Dog either cannot help or will, in fact, exacerbate the issue, as was the case with the client mentioned earlier. Her dog was making her anxiety SO MUCH WORSE. She was frustrated and confused because she felt like she should be getting better and she just wasn’t. She was getting worse. I’m seeing this more and more because we want to believe all dogs have magical healing powers to all people. Sometimes they don’t, and sometimes they can’t.

3. There are many more good things than bad things about working a Service Dog

There are some amazing things about working a Service Dog. But there are some really, really hard things too. I’m not talking about access issues – I think the general public and perspective handlers are pretty aware of those. I’m talking about the other stuff. The stuff we don’t talk about. Like how everything takes a bajillion times longer to plan. Want to go to a concert and you scored amazing 2nd row seats? Cool! What’s the leg room look like? How loud is it? How crowded? How much beer is going to get spilled on your dog (my experience, approximately 2 cups per concert). Do you have ANY idea how bad stale beer smells on dog? You get home at midnight and now your disabled ass gets to bath a dog. Want to take a road trip with your best couple friend 2 hours up the road for a weekend? AWESOME! So, that’s four people and luggage for 4 people in a car and a big hairy dog. Every time. All the time. I could go on and on and on about things that have NOTHING to do with access rights or the public acting like idiots.

We really need to talk about these things. We really need to be honest with people about these things. Our social media needs to reflect these things. We need to show pictures of our Service Dogs squished into concert venue seats and taking up all our leg room for 3 hours. We need to show the blow-out diarrhea because he’s sick and that happens sometimes and now I have to figure out how I’m going to rearrange my day and see if I can organize some “service humans” to work for me and also what it looks like for my painful disabled self to clean up blowout diarrhea at 5am. We need to show more about the realities of Service Dog life.

We need to stop being afraid to say, “maybe this isn’t the right tool for you.” We need to stop feeling guilty about telling the truth because we love them.

Let’s talk more about this. Let’s tell people the truth. I believe deeply in the cause of Service Dogs. I’ve dedicated my whole life to training them and providing them to others. I work a dog myself and he’s changed my whole life. I love posting gorgeous pictures of him on social media and enjoying our life together. Lets just make sure we share the other stuff too. The real stuff. The uncomfortable stuff. The stuff that will help those that need to know, that maybe, this just isn’t the right tool for them.

Leave me a comment or ask a questions or just tell me your thoughts on this. What are things you wish people had told you about before you started working your Service Dog?

Published by abigailwitthauer

Lover of animal behavior, impassioned for social justice, demander of service dog reform. Please bring wine and cheese.

78 thoughts on “Maybe, a service dog isn’t the right tool for you.

  1. Even if a service dog is the right tools for one in general, that doesn’t mean they’re the right tool 100% of the time. I’m going deaf and have a hearing dog but like when I go to the shooting range, an amusement park, or anywhere that he’s more of a hindrance than a help, he’s staying home. And that’s okay!


    1. This is a wonderful point Kelsey! There is absolutely nothing wrong with working a Service Dog part time or only in certain situations. That is just as legitimate as a full-time working dog.


      1. Thank you for saying that, Kelsey. I use my dog when I need him. And when I can handle the situation or when my husband is with me I don’t always bring him.


      2. People really do need to understand how service dogs are selected, how they are trained, and how involved the training actually is. As a member of an online group of wives who are married to combat vets with ptsd i see they sometimes get a dog and expect the dog to help with ptsd. stress, anxiety etc. and when it doesnt happen as expected then they look for trainers. It just breaks my heart now that i understand what it takes and effort you need to put into the dog and you need to have the right dog with the right tempermant. i love dogs and they can really brighten your day but i wish it was more common knowledge on the whole gammut of service dogs, emotional support dogs, etc.


      3. Hi, I love this article, but I have a few questions. I adore animals and I always feel better when I’m around them. I suffer from depression, which I’m taking medication for and it helped me stop wanting to kill myself, DID, anxiety, ptsd, and other stuff. I talked with my counselor about service animal and she agreed with me about getting one, but I’m scared. I hate being around people because I believe that everyone is out to kill me, and I get small but panic attacks every time a male walks by me, too much noise, too many people, and so on. I want to get better and I have coping skills that I use when I get out of the situation, but I can’t seem to calm down during the situation. Help, please!
        I’m part of a group on Facebook but I have a abusive family that forced me to add them on as my friends, so I’m terrified to post anything like this on Facebook because they might see it.


      4. There a lot of Service Dogs Facebook groups that must be joined to read and post. You can’t just “follow” them. The advantage of this is anything posted on these posts can not be read by anyone not a member of that group.

        OTOH if I’m reading between the lines of your comment correctly, if things are so toxic that they can log into your Facebook account, that won’t help.

        IMO you shouldn’t be considering getting a service dog or emotional support animal (ESA) if you are in a toxic environment where you are in danger. What you would be doing is a adding a potential victim.

        By ADA service animal law, no animal can be a service *animal* if it is trained or used for any kind of protection, either explicit or implicit, other than passive … typically circle blocking to provide additional space for PSTD. FYI, FWIW, Just having a SD that “appears” aggressive by reputation of the breed does not count as the dog being aggressive; it is the training and actions, of the dog that counts.

        ESA can be a dog, cat, parrot, etc., basically a pet that do not have public access (where non-pets are allowed, except for explicit situations, like housing). Service *animals* can be a miniature horse or dog; the handler of the service animal is the one that has the PA rights for the service animal. Be honest here, miniature horse isn’t going to be a protective type animal. But the protection aspect is true regardless.

        I hope I’m tea reading your comment incorrectly and that with research you and your medical team determine an ESA or Service Dog is for you, and you decide that you can handle the responsibilities and keep you and your helper safe.

        Good Luck.


      5. Thank you Diane,
        For replying to my comment. I love animals and I never want to have them suffer in the toxic environment that I’m living in right now. That’s why I want to get financial stable first and live on my own before I get a service animal. I do not want the animal to be seen as aggressive, but more as protective. I have to have a big personal space bubble to feel safe or at least have an animal to hold onto if things get too much. I’m new to the service animal and I’m mostly just by myself. I honestly just want something to help me in the real world.


      6. “big personal space bubble to feel safe or at least have an animal to hold onto if things get too much.”

        Valid Tasks. Which is all it takes to have a Service Animal. To have a Service Animal in Public, that is training; extensive obedience training with commands most don’t think about.

        Personal bubble, which provides you with the sense of protection, is not the same as having an animal be protective. Former is allowed, latter is not. Whether it is a Doberman, German Shepard, Miniature Horse, Golden Retriever, or Chihuahua, being used for the circle blocking personal bubble space. Size will be dictated by your actual tasks required.

        The decision that a SA is something you need, will benefit you, and something you can handle. Which covers not only the private aspect of the responsibility of the animal itself, but any attention that taking a trained animal with you into public spaces that Will Occur; can you handle this. These and others are questions you and your professional doctors/therapists need to decide. That is what determines whether you need a Service Dog or not.

        Your professional medical advisor writes that you will benefit from a service animal for ONE task; personal bubble space would be the shining example of SA, not ESA.

        The medical community is not directly responsible for finding or certifying any animal you get is that SA. That is your responsibility whether you choose to self train or go through a program.

        Again. Good Luck.


      7. What’s a shame is that in the community…if you dont take your dog 100% of the time you must not really be disabled…such nonsense.

        I dont take my dogs to concerts or hockey games(oddly enough…football is fine) my current working dog cannot ever go to basketball game….oh dogs, I made that mistake once….

        But…yes…not everyone needs a dog.

        And…dare I say it…probably 50% of the service dog users probably are not disabled enough…and 25%? Their dogs are not actually trained to task.


      8. I think whether a person is “disabled enough” is really only between that person’s medical team, service dog program/trainer, and them. No one else.

        Certainly being disabled and having a dog or miniature horse that is specifically trained to perform one or more tasks to mitigate that disability is required. No doubt.


      9. Very good arrival! I have had multiple sclerosis for 40 years and got my Goldendoodle service dog 7 years ago. She has made a huge difference in my life and to many who meet her. People are so kind and focus on the dog instead of my disability. We self trained and it took a lot of patience to survive puppyhood and I Had a broken foot too! Her behavior allows her to go to the ballet, on the plane, and volunteer in our community. She loves to work and then pass out on the couch! I never imagined the bond with my service dog; it takes work on both our parts. I would want those considering service dogs to respect the needs of the animal as well as their own.


    2. I totally agree with you!

      I go to the firing range a lot. The first few minutes, I just have to use other coping mechanisms and wait out the initial PTSD stuff. Would it be awesome for my SD to be there to cut off the exacerbation? Of course! But, I’m like you. I don’t want to hurt his hearing, expose him to all the lead bits, and I surely don’t want hot brass to land on him. I’ve had it find its way between the cuff of my pants and the top of my shoe. There’s a reason it’s called hot brass…

      If it’s just too much, for me and I can’t get “right” on my own, well I just lost $20 on that hour. I lose about 1/4 of it anyway, getting adjusted before I pick anything up. Meh. His safety and health is worth way more that $20 and me having to use my wheelchair, which I despise and have to use without his help.

      Our pups put their hearts and souls into making sure we live our lives the best we can. We owe them whatever they need. Their safety and health is priceless.


  2. Thank you. I’ve seen an uptick in people wanting a service dog to stop self harming behaviors for themselves their children. That normally in and of itself isn’t an issue, but there are a lot of people for whom that means “when I start hitting myself, get between me and my fists” which isn’t fair to the dog. I’ve also seen several owner trainers training them for protection work and using them to break falls in a few disability specific groups I’m in


    1. Thank you so much for your comment. Yes, I’ve seen that disturbing trend as well. I’ve also seen it greatly encouraged in some of the major owner-trained service dog groups on social media. It makes me very sad for the owners that don’t have better education and it makes me sad for the dogs who are ultimately ill-equipped for the job and will suffer.


      1. I think it is because it’s because it’s hard to find trainers in certain areas willing to help with correct knowledge.


      2. Yes. Either no trainers available. Cost. Time to wait. Do not meet the “exact” specifications for the program dogs. I self train. I read everything I can online. I talk to local trainers, obedience & access, regularly. I’m also in contact with a local trainer who is training her second SD for herself. Who works with other teams in the area. Are we as a team hurting the SD community? No. My standards make sure of that. Me, as a handler, has no one else to blame if something goes wrong. I know our presence is not going to interfere with another team, ever.


  3. A well written article and EXTREMELY resourceful and enlightening. I would love to see this info on the world wide web, and on the news, posted on people’s foreheads. Ok maybe not that but this is important stuff!


  4. GREAT read, thank you! I’m a professional dog trainer and work part time at my local humane society, and I’ve been looking into furthering my skill set to work with training service dogs. But even in my basic obedience classes, it seems that barely a class goes by without someone asking about CGC readiness so their 4-legged can become a therapy dog. Much of what you say above applies here as well – most of the dogs I encounter are not of the right temperament, and yet it’s very difficult to broach that topic with owners (especially within the confines of a 45-minute basic obedience class with 7 other dogs to tend to!). The few times I have, many owners seem to take it personally (“MY dog isn’t cut out for this?!?”) as opposed to my intended message – this is not a good idea not only for the public, but for your little family member too. Keep saying what you’re saying, it needs to be heard.


    1. I won’t even have that discussion with people until they’re a good 16 weeks into training with me, at least. “Well, keep up with classes and we’ll see how she comes along.” Some dogs have come out of their shell or matured and surprised me. But by the time we’re a few months along, hopefully the owners like and respect me enough to understand what I’m saying when I tell them their dog wouldn’t enjoy the work.


    2. Such a good point! My dog is going to be starting prepping for the CGC test soon, but I have no intention of trying her as a therapy dog. She’s an anxious dog, so while she’s sweet as the day is long and has never shown aggression to human or dog, why would I want her in a situation that will increase her anxiety? I just want her to feel in control in public and CGC training will help with that. Plus, it helps with homeowners associations!

      It breaks my heart when I see a SD trying its best but who was obviously badly trained or ill-suited to the task its being asked to perform. You can see the frustration and concern in their faces (if you’re the anthropomorphizing type like me). They want to do what’s right, but they just don’t know how because inexperienced owner trainers have attempted their training and have messed up. Leave it to the pros, folks, unless you’re a talented trainer yourself.


    3. This is what concerns me with “owner trained” service dogs….I have raised puppies for a ADI approved service dog organization (I have raised 7 puppies, 5 of which are working service dogs) This is a SUPER HIGH number, it is usually around 50% of the puppies that are BRED, RAISED and TRAINED specifically for this job don’t make it. Owners that train their own dogs, get a dog and train it and use it regardless if it is really cut out for it. It may not be aggressive, but it may HATE doing that work….


  5. I wish more people would also talk about how you need to also consider your actual living situation itself. I’ve heard a lot of people say “I’ll figure it out,” when it comes to the cost of owning a service dog. It’s not something you can just “figure” out. When a dog is working it needs to have a reliable source of everything.

    On top of that, just your whole life in general. I’m going to college in less that two years and my medical team had started heavily suggesting a service dog only a year or so ago. I had to seriously consider whether I wanted to bring a full blown dog with me to college and whether that would be more difficult or more helpful.

    In the end, after a year’s long discussion, I decided having a service dog with me in college would be more helpful than it would be hurtful, but that’s not necessarily the case for everyone out there.


    1. Thank you for your comment! I was a Puppy Raiser in college and it was both a wonderful and very challenging experience for me. I’m so glad you took the time to consider the pros and cons and get everything sorted out before you went!


  6. AMEN! Very well said! When people contact us about getting a SD they are at desperation’s doorstep. They will grasp at anything that looks like it will be the answer to their problems. Sadly having a SD isn’t always the answer. You made excellent points, I will be sharing with colleagues and clients.


  7. Thanks for writing this as it needs to be said.

    I am still a new handler and I’m learning that there are times when it is just plain easier to go it alone than with my SDiT. Forcing her into situations that she isn’t ready to succeed in yet only sets us both up for failure.


  8. I do get so tired of hearing “oh I wish I could take my dog everywhere with me!” My response is usually “no, no you don’t.” I could run into the store and get milk and bread in 10 minutes alone but it takes me almost 30 minutes with the dog. I have to get him out of the car and leashed up, I always stop and let him try to go potty before we go in, while we’re in there I’m always staving off invitations of petting and people talking to him. People also stopping me and asking me about him or service dogs or just things in general. So as much as I love my dog, and as much help as he does give me, and as much help as I know he will give me in the future as he is still learning new things all the time, my wish is that I did not need him. People don’t get that. They also don’t get the financial burden of a service dog versus just a pet. SOME people do not feed their pets the healthiest food or vet their pet the way they should. My service dog has top quality food, top quality vet care, insurance, and I’m constantly grooming him or clipping his nails or wiping him down or giving him a bath. That stuff does not come cheap!


    1. My response is similar. It is “no, you really do not. Bringing my SD from home into the store is like bringing a toddler, well behaved toddler, but a toddler non the less. AND it never gets better.”

      I have to: harness up my SD, maybe put her booties to protect against heat or ice salt. We also have a jacket, but typically not needed for a trip to a store. Now an outdoor mall, yes, add in putting on her rain jacket. Load her into the car, which for me is pick her up, lock her into the seat belt. Then when we get to the destination, unhook the seat belt, hook up her leash, help her safely dismount from the vehicle (normally drive a pickup, & she’s a small SD). Gather up my stuff. NOW ready to shop. Not counting all the attention we get from everyone in the store. Now we are done shopping & checked out. Reverse process to load her & buckle her in the pickup (granted she already has all her gear on), then I can load whatever I bought into the pickup, & go to the next stop, repeat & rinse. When I get home. I have to get her inside, generally out of her gear, before I can unload what I purchased.

      Regarding travel. You mentioned the big hairy dog, but you forgot to mention the gear, including your dog’s bag of food, toys, blankets, extra water, etc. We even carry her folding puppy pen for the hotel room, or eagle protection in the camping site.

      It is amazing how their thought process immediate does a 180 when you mention toddler equivalence.

      It is easier to plan to leave her home than to take her. OTOH I’ve made that call wrong too many times. How do I know if she isn’t with me to alert? Easy. When she starts alerting the second I open the door when I get home, is an indication I stretched the boundaries.


      1. I also have a small SD and I’m not sure I’m in love with working her. She is a toy poodle mix and is awesome for me in so many ways, but she draws more attention then my larger SDs ever did. She is super cute and people ALWAYS notice her, but it’s hard to have patches people will notice before they start petting her, which I never allow. She has a job to do and as her patch says “I don’t pet you while you’re working!”
        There are many times I leave her home, as it’s easier to go places and enjoy shopping without her.
        This article is perfect for people thinking about getting their first SD, especially for mental health issues, since the general public just think the dog will make everything perfect for them.
        I have PTSD and Major Depressive Disorder, so sometimes having her is more complicated then going it alone. Although she is a huge help, especially at work, when out in the general public, I’m always weighing the pros and cons.


      2. I do not take mine all the time when we are at home. But, I do take her regularly to keep her training in place. When we’ve been out and about doing stuff for her, participating in pet friendly activities, and I have to stop at non-pet friendly stores, I take the opportunity to take her in and keep up her training. Sometimes if we haven’t done this in a while we specifically go out intending to train. Lately I’ve noticed that because she is on my side away from people, she’s not necessarily “invisible”, because we’ll get comments “oh, doggy”, “cute puppy”, and from kids “puppy!”, BUT immediately followed by “she’s working” from them (or parents). Nobody is attempting to pet or asking to pet. When this is someplace as busy as Costco, this is great.

        Now the next time we are on a hiking trail, past the no pets sign, someone will send their kid over to tell us pets aren’t allowed. Hiking trails are somewhere she will not get left behind. That is when I can bet she’ll be alerting sometime during the hike. She’ll also alert sometime during the vehicle travel to the destination. Or at night in the trailer or hotel. She alerts all the time at home, and in the middle of the night, but you know, we’re home. Night is going to get worse for the next few day. Stupid device for sleep apnea broke … she’ll be waking me up every time my breathing stops for a second, or two. This is not why she’s a SD, but a side benefit task.

        About the only time I can guaranty she won’t be alerting is while I’m eating (for at least an hour afterwards, usually), so we don’t take her into restaurants unless it is absolutely not safe to leave her and take out is not an option. Not everyone has this luxury.


  9. Suggesting that a SD is a poor fit for someone is, indeed, taboo—not just because people are desperately trying to find effective accommodations, but also because it’s rejecting someone from an entire lifestyle…a lifestyle that is more comforting and tolerable from a social standpoint because there is significantly less stigma surrounding SDs as opposed to durable medical equipment, self-injections, or visible CBT techniques. At least, in my experience.

    The SD community not only has to contend with ableism from the public, but also from within. When we police each other and question each other’s legitimacy, it can happen in some pretty appalling ways.

    With all of that said, I 100% agree with you that those of us who share should also fearlessly share the “cons” as well as the “pros.”

    Working with service dogs requires a trifecta of sucky logistics: Crowd Management, Workplace Safety (for the dog), Triage (when our needs conflict with theirs).

    Definitely not for everyone.


  10. I’ve been a Guide Dog user for 18 years and taught people who are blind mobility (white cane). I often have to talk to people about dog mobility and whether it’s right for them.

    I think i’m Pretty good at it now but I over emphasise the public attention.

    I once spoke with a lovely client who ended up being matched with the most attractive golden retriever… even though I had nothing to do with the actual match… she never quite forgave me (tongue in cheek) for not preparing her for the public attention.

    I share the good and bad on social media… the regurgitated poo vomit could have possibly put anyone off dog ownership forever!!! Lol.


  11. Thank you for your candor. I’m a service dog handler, and I am in a few Facebook groups for handlers and those interested in getting a SD.
    One of the things that drives me batty are the parents that have a child with autism. They want to tether the dog to the child to prevent the child from bolting, among other things. Basically they abdicate their responsibility for their child and expect the dog to do it for them. They are setting themselves up for failure. When you try and explain that a SD may not be appropriate for their 4 year old, they become angry and argumentative.


    1. I remember when this became a thing – dogs used to keep kids with autism from bolting – this is in part because of success from this method being proclaimed on social media, plus a website for the service dogs (I think 4 paws for ability) describing this method. In this manner, though, the adult still has the leash, and control of the dog, it’s just that the dog slows the kid down enough to give the parent time to react. I don’t think they are trying to “abdicate their responsibility” as you put it, I think they are trying to develop a lifestyle that is not always rooted in fear, and to be able to go out in public without feeling constantly terrified.

      I don’t have a child with autism, but I do know what it it is like to constantly have to advocate for services, and being told “no”. It can definitely make one angry and argumentative.

      The parents did not come up with idea themselves – they read about it, heard about it, saw a gofundme page for it, and thought it would be helpful. Not just by their neighbor, but by an actual group that trains service dogs for children with autism (yes, some of them 4 years old). Then when they ask for this for their kid, the person they ask shoots the idea down, and is judging them for wanting to “abdicate their responsibility” as parents, when that is really not how this technique works, if you actually read about it. They are used to having to fight for what their kid needs. I’d be argumentative, too, just saying.

      That being said, the dog is a creature that needs to be cared for. It may not be the best fit for a parent that already hands their finances stretched, and their hands full. It is certainly OK to point out what goes into actually owning a service dog, a living, loving creature who deserves the best in care and attention, and have them talk to people with autism service dogs to see how that actually works in a family dynamic. It really might not be the best tool for the situation, first a foremost became a dog is so much more than a “tool”. But they are not being brats for wanting to entertain the suggestion.


    2. As a parent of a person with autism (now an adult and doing better than predicted), I have heard that “abdicating responsibility for the child” in multiple contexts. It’s true only if a parent bolts from the job entirely (it happens; marriages break up) . Please reconsider your comment, whether it’s about a use of a service dog, kid having a meltdown, kid talking too loud, hand flapping, whatever. It’s hurtful. We never had a service dog for our son (he was terrified of dogs) but he was a bolter when still nonverbal. The only thing that worked was a kid harness and leash, but then we got crap for “treating your child like an animal” and threats to report us to Child Protective Services.

      Mothers in general, and mothers of autistic kids in particular, are expected to be even more supernaturally gifted than a service dog, able to stay awake 24/7, never go to the bathroom, never get sick, and be able to intervene and keep their kid from ever being noticeably “different” or bothering anyone. Impossible, just like service dogs can’t do everything. So please, to prevent hurting the parent who very well knows they’re responsible for their kid, have some compassion (and yes, I know parents of autistic kids can be maddening. I may have been, and I certainly knew some who were. But also exhausted, anxious, terrified, desperate.)


      1. Elizabeth, I really appreciate your thoughtful comment. There is absolutely a reason I did not include discussions surrounding Autism Service Dogs in this article. While I think it’s a valuable discussion, it’s incredibly complex. I have several good friends who have special needs children. I know it’s exhausting. Your hard work and dedication should be commended.


      2. Be kind to yourself, Elizabeth. Parents (of all kids, neurotypical and others) can be maddening 💖


    3. I am an adult with Autism, who also has a child with Autism. Luckily she wasn’t ‘a runner’ for very long – and while she was she was relatively small – so I was able to put her in a ‘baby harness’ (because she absolutely would NOT hold my hand without a MAJOR fuss, and strapping her in a pram brought a similar ‘MAJOR” fuss (and she really liked the ‘freedom’ the harness gave her (a 1 metre wide reach around me) .. However, I have friends with kids who have been ‘runners’ when they’re somewhat older and bigger , and I very much SUPPORT the use of Assistance Dogs for these kids. Again – it’s NOT for everyone – the adult has control of the dog, has to deal with the training / feeding / caring / planning (and inevitable poop and vomit already mentioned) … BUT for some families when the benefits (and costs) of having an Autism Assistance dog are nothing short of Life-changing! … Obviously the size of the dog matters, as does the size of the kid … and the dog’s only able to ‘anchor’ a child so long as the size/weight ration is correct… However, an additional added benefit of an Autism Assistance dog (over and above tethering / anchoring) is the dog often DECREASES the child’s anxiety / irritability, CHANGES their focus, INCREASES their ability (and desire) to communicate with others… which means not only CAN the dog ‘anchor’ them IF they ‘do a runner’ BUT the child is much less likely to TRY to run anymore (or nearly so often) … NOT to mention IF the child does run when NOT anchored to the dog – many of these dogs can ‘track’ their child’s scent – so it’s NOT just guess work as to which direction the child has gone… My child is now 12. She is very sociable and happy, not at all inclined to ‘run’ (but rather rather freeze, or seek assurance from an adult or older child) … BUT we are in the process of training a Dog to help alleviate her anxiety (which can come on fairly suddenly and escalate fairly quickly) especially in public. Our dog is still a puppy (he’s just gone 6 months) so he’s in training, but NOT coated for public access yet (because he’s still not ‘up to standard’) … and already – even though he can’t accompany us out to places that aren’t ‘dog friendly’ I’ve already noticed a decrease in her reliance of ‘PRN’ meds and an increase in seeking out her dog when an anxiety attack starts… In addition – she now has a totally dependable, adoring ‘best friend’ – who never finds her too ‘bouncy’ or annoying and is ALWAYS pleased to see her 🙂


    4. There’s a local woman to me who asked about 1 of my standard poodle pups. I checked into her and found they were not responsible people. Later heard they adopted a rescue puppy and at 6mo old the were getti g rid of it it was untrained and unruly.. So glad I said no. Then a family contacted me with a 21 Yr old autistic so A handsome lad and quite personabe. When they arrived one of my boys Ronnie went right to him. I spoke to him about obedience classes . His mum said to me he’s too shy for that. But their vet backed me up and got them lined up for obedience class . Ronnie is 6 months old now the star favorite at his obedience school.. And mum has messaged me to thank me for breeding such a lovey dog and that Ronnie has changed her sons whole life. He takes him everywhere and Ronnie is well-behaved . I’m not sure he is classified as a service dog. But having him has helped this young man to have a new lease on life. A sister of the litter has gone to a disabled woman as well but she’s a experienced handler and her Maisie is the star pup too and has been bumped up from puppies to juniors as she’s quite clever.. I am so thankful that two of my pups are loving life and serving to make a difference in the lives of their human families but I’m glad I fallowed my gut and dodged a bad home. And I totally get that some people shouldn’t have a dog period and it’s discussing the phones that buy a jacket and a registered service dog badge just so they can take their usually untrained annoying dog places with them.


  12. I think people forget they are dogs not robots and no matter how well trained a service dog is…at some point they are going to do a dog thing or not follow a command because they are dogs 1st…and they are not perfect…and because of that it doesn’t make them a fake service dog (not talking about the ones that are so out of control that it is pretty obvious they have had no training) I have watched top dogs in AKC obedience ignore their handler on an over the jump command not because they didn’t know the job they just were being a dog….letting people think a service dog will always follow commands is a disservice to everyone because it is unrealistic


  13. Another thing that people need to consider is cost (I have a 100+ lb service dog which is not cheap to feed, groom or get vet care for), as well as the fact that when this “medical device” can no longer do it’s job, it’s not as simple as going out and buying a new one. The transition can be rough on even the strongest of people.


  14. I am president of a small dog rescue. We routinely have people inquire about adopting a dog to train as an SD. We are in the process of placing our 3rd dog in training for SD. I always make it very clear to applicants that we cannot evaluate whether a dog is a good candidate. I can tell them about the dog’s personality, and I’m happy to make sure their chosen trainer can meet the dog and evaluate it. But, I’m not going to just let them adopt a dog and decide it’s an SD. And if they don’t have a trainer they are already working with, I won’t adopt them a dog for SD work.


    1. Another thing I feel needs to be talked about is when a match goes wrong. I am a guide dog user, on my third dog. All my dogs have been program/school trained. My second dog was a disaster. I do genuinely think the dog should never have been passed. It took a long time for me to get over what happened and the failure of that partnership exacerbated/added to my disabilities. That is to say, I developed anxiety around dogs. That I had never had before. I also now suffer from the complications of long term injuries, as a direct result of the dogs actions. So my point is, even trainers who are trying to get matches right, can and do make mistakes.


  15. Ben (my SD) and I are, as a friend of mine puts it, like one person. I need him. But I have Grey Hair Privilege, which means I’m not faced with access challenges very often, and I am completely comfortable with my dog ‘outing me’ as a psychiatrically disabled person everywhere I go. For me, it cues people that I may have some stumbles in my speech or memory or act a bit weird, and they go “yeah, but she’s got a psychiatric service dog, so let’s cut her some slack”. I deeply, deeply appreciate that.

    But it’s not that way for everyone. If you have debilitating anxiety when people look at you … you really don’t wanna go out in public with a dog in places people don’t expect to see one. EVERYONE notices you. Even the polite people who you can see telling themselves “don’t look at the dog don’t look at the dog don’t distract the dog oh my god he’s so adorable don’t look at the dog” …. they’re looking at the dog, and they’re looking at you.

    There will be paw prints on the windows and on the seat. There will be dog hair on absolutely everything you own. There will be accidents. There will be embarassing moments.

    And there will be deep pressure when you need it, and guidance back to your car when you can’t find it, and someone to lick your face when you cry, and maybe that’s what you need. But maybe that’s not worth it. And that is OKAY.

    Asking a dog to work for us is a Big Ask. Don’t ask it unless it’s the best thing for you and for the dog you choose to carry out the work. Match the dog to the job. And realize that maybe, a dog isn’t the answer for you or not for you right now.


  16. A service dog was not the right fit for my daughter, and it took a very difficult 6 months with a service dog to determine that. Fortunately, the dog was able to be placed with someone else who was a better fit, but it was a very hard experience for all of us to go through. I felt like I had failed my daughter, after working and advocating so hard to get her a service dog, and she felt like she failed for not being able to handle having the dog. She was truly devastated by the entire experience, and regressed rather than progressed.

    I have also had clients inquire about whether I will write a letter in support of them obtaining a service dog or an emotional support animal (dog or otherwise). I have been surprised that sometimes, they are trying to “work the system” just wanting to get out of paying the pet deposit where they live or wanting to be allowed to have a pet where pets are not allowed. Other times, they are seriously seeking the legitimate help of a service dog or ESA, but are totally uneducated and unprepared.

    Thank you for this very educational and “real” article that will hopefully help prevent a lot of negative situations for both dogs and people.


  17. Really enjoyed your article and all the different perspectives on the comments.
    My son has a ad for PTSD and while at home he is family but when out he goes into different mode.
    People are amazed when we go to restaurants when we get up to leave that he is with us, they didn’t know, and he is 125 pound great dane.
    We got lucky with him, he was a rescue from shelter, at a approx year and half, we had a trainer help us to get hi s GC but I honestly feel that the bonding had more to do with it than anything else!!
    Being in tune to each other is important!!


  18. Well said!
    The only thing I would suggest, I am not a ‘disabled individual’ I am a Individual with a disability – this language framework is less derogatory


    1. I appreciate this feedback! I myself am disabled and the former usage is how I always refer to myself but I certainly want to be cognizant of the feelings of others. Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention.


  19. Thank you for this! People are constantly telling me “Why don’t you just get a service dog”, Without realizing I am physically NOT able to care for one! As it is, family has to water and feed our two pets. Forget going out into the yard to clean up after them, wheelchairs hate grass!


  20. I agree. Related: I have a distant acquaintance who trained their small dog (a Sheltie, I think) as a therapy dog, and the dog performed very well — but the dog seemed nearly terrified of strangers. I was encouraged to pet her, pick her up, etc, as the dog had been trained to do, but the dog was shaking! It was such a small motion that you couldn’t tell from looking at her, however. Now, it’s possible I was not “reading” the dog correctly, but if I’d known this person better, I would have asked some pointed questions. Perfect dog obedience isn’t the same as a dog suited to being a therapy dog.


  21. “Service dogs are for breaking down barriers that the disabled encounter whilest trying to live with the privileges of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness within the mainstream of life. ” Martha Barger
    To the extent that you, or any other, act as a discourager, creating psychological barriers, and tearing down service dogs and and their partners in the process, you are a barrier.

    While the content of your article may include some points of value, I will not know because I was totally disgusted by the attacks that you made in the beginning of your article.
    I would encourage you to reframe your article with words of encouragement and positivity, in addition toto constructi comments and resources for people of any type of disability who has the courage to attempt to overcome their disability and participate equally, even in the midst of the ignorant who would disrespect a service dog while it is performing it’s work and even worse disrespect a partner of the service dog.
    Because a service dog is of a particular breed, disposition, or purpose does not give license to anyone to stand in the way of a partner using that service dog to ameliorate their disability.
    You are in need of sensitivity training. For you, I pray your sensitivity training does not comes soon, before you or a loved one has personal need of the Americans with disability act ADA and in particular a Service Dog SD.


    1. Martha, I’m so sorry you were upset by the article. Clearly you have not read my bio or googled me. I have been disabled for the majority of my adult life. I own/work a Service Dog. I am
      The founder and director of a large Service Dog school. I teach classes on ADA and access rights.

      I am clearly VERY pro service dog. I have dedicated my entire life to Service Dogs and individuals in need of Service Dogs. This article has now been shared thousands of times by many major Service Dog trainers, schools, and handlers with disabilities. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

      I am not advocating discouragement, I am advocating telling the whole truth. The real truth. The hard and sometimes ugly sides of the truth. Rather than a sales pitch of rainbows and butterflies and perfection.


      1. I agree. There are responsibilities to having a Assistance Animal. There are consequences to having a Assistance Animal. If either are compromised & there is no way to mitigate or overcome those consequences, or cover those responsibilities, then maybe, key is MAYBE, an Assistance Animal is not the correct treatment.


      2. Besides. My response above (telling people that SD is like taking a toddler everywhere), is to make people THINK. These aren’t (generally) people who have a reason to have their dog with them all the time. They just think it’ll be “convenient”, & cute. Uh, no, it is not.

        It is only convenient, if it means you even get to leave the house because of your service dog. To do something at your convenience, not a caregivers. A matter of life & death if you don’t have your SD. Then the extra to prep is 100% worth the effort.

        If having your SD with you attracts unwanted attention you can’t handle that prevents you from using your SD. If you can’t break that circular argument, how is the SD helping? Maybe at home SD is the option. Maybe it is not enough.

        These questions must also be answered.


      3. I read your article and while I agree with the majority of it and think it is a well written and well thought out piece, I also found part of it troubling.

        The paragraph on your lack of support for mobility assistance dogs seems at odds with promoting service dogs and reads as an implied bias against certain uses and disabilities.

        I agree with you that service dogs cannot replace some home health care equipment, such as bed rails, shower rails, chairs etc. however, the NEVER statements are just as definitive and wrong as the always belief that this article appears to argue against.

        People with mobility issues, who a dog does help, use it for more things than replacing a cane or walker, or pulling a wheelchair. They do things that the medical equipment cant do, such as pick up dropped items, alert others if a fall occurs, open cabinets and doors, help people with certain disabilities through doorways and transitions.

        Also, there are people in wheelchairs who are not wheelchair bound. In addition to pulling the wheelchair, and performing many of the actions above, dogs can also help transition between the chair and other areas, such as a toilet or into a car etc. Having just spent the last few years caring for my mother, who in the last year used a wheelchair in public, i can tell you I understand how that would make things easier given the design of some public restrooms.

        I am not at all certain where your concern over pulling a wheelchair comes from unless it has to do with an issue with a dog being used to pull things. It was not clear in that section of your blog. But dogs have been used as draft animals for centuries, including carting and sledding. It is actually one of the things that certain breeds have a natural predisposition towards.

        Maybe this one paragraph in your blog was just not as well written as the rest, and does not really indicate what you are trying to say, or maybe it really is your opinion and for some reason you have a bias against certain uses of animals to mitigate some disabilities.

        You certainly have a right to your opinion even if it is wrong… so does it matter? I think it does given your response above. You point to your credentials as being an expert on the subject. When you do that and promote yourself. you try to convince the world that your opinion matters more than others. In this case, if people take your opinion as truth, they judge others for using mobility assistance dogs, you are actually making it harder for people with those disabilities. I have to assume that is an unintentional consequence of a blog like this but still it is worth considering .


  22. Having had three hearing assistance German Shepherd service dogs over the years and expecting my fourth next month, there is so much truth in what you wrote. Truths that are often glossed over when it comes to the expectations of having a service dog.

    I’ve had dogs all my life, so I figured, hey, no problem. Wrong. Basic obedience and sound training weren’t the challenges, it was always the unexpected. My first shepherd went through a period of dog reactivity that I thought would bench her. We worked hard and the reactivity was mitigated, even travelling with me by plane, cross-country train, herding cows on a relative’s dairy when off duty. But I stress it’s hard and constant work.

    The handler needs to be fully educated about what to expect with a dog, the responsibilities and challenges. I’m in a position now, at almost 70 and struggling with arthritis and almost no hearing, where I’m wondering if I can be an effective service dog handler. Thankfully, my cousin is a professional trainer and breeder and has been working with Finn for over a year now, taking all my needs into consideration.

    At least I’ll know he can “go home again” if things, sadly, don’t work out. It will break my heart, but we each must decide if the human/service dog relationship is best for both person and dog. And for those considering having a service dog, please do your research, talk to people who use service dogs for conditions similar to yours, assess your strengths and challenges and ability to take care of and work with a dog 24 hours a day.


  23. Great article with many valid points.
    My husband has a service dog from a reputable organization. They have their own breeding program and quickly decide which dogs could make the cut as a service dog. At any given point in the training the dog may lose the ability to become qualified based on behaviors and aptitude. We waited over 3 years for this dog. His dog started out as a pup in prisons to obtain training of commands, get comfortable with noises and many other experiences. He was handled by many individuals. He then went to foster homes for more socialization, went to movie theaters, churches, grocery stores, parks etc. you name it he went there and had training to be comfortable and well behaved.
    In my opinion there is no way to match that type of training by obtaining a dog and attempting to train it yourself.


  24. Excellent article… I mean no disrespect in saying it’s a start because as you; I believe people and doctors are uniformed about Service dogs. From the selection of a pup/dog to the training, care, nuances of the breed and as mentioned, the time it takes to care for them and be responsible. I’ve owned, raised, trained Newfoundlands for SAR, Service, Therapy, etc.. (Own a service Newf myself) for almost 20 yrs now.

    Educating the public on ALL aspects of a TRUE service dog (not some wannabe fido) is paramount. From evaluating the disability for a service dog to begin with to selecting the breed that fits best for the disability AND lifestyle the disabled lives. The disabled also has to realize that the service dog also affects everyone else in their lives also.

    What’s needed, is these types of articles to be in the public view in mass to get anywhere.. until then, I think we’re going to see this rapidly getting worse than better.


  25. I’m legally deaf and have trained ALL my hearing service dogs (the first two with help from a specialty trainer). I can not begin to tell you about the abuse that people with small dogs THINK they qualify to be service dogs and that is WRONG. It’s been well known and promoted by those in the special dog training programs that service dogs are from medium size on UP… never small dogs. Also, small dogs have a higher bite tendency and tend to bark excessively. This really makes me mad… I tell people with small dogs that they do NOT fit the service dog criteria (because I do know that many tend to “hide” their pets under that “banner” so to speak!) I’m now in the process of training my next hearing service dog which I have waited six years for. Yes, he’s 8 months old but I’ll get him to where I need him to be.


    1. Ahhhh. Little dog syndrome. You know that barking is a trained response when you define it as “it is what I’m allowed to do”. Even large & medium dogs are excessive barkers when not trained. Difference? What is acceptable in a cute little dog is rarely tolerated in a larger dog. One of the training groups I work in has a saying “difference between big dogs & little dogs is the size of the problem, not the problem.” Compare a dancing 6 month puppies who want to play: a Pom/Chi, a Great Dane. Dancing for the same reason, not being allowed to play with the other dogs around them, all on leash. Guess what. One is considered “cute”, the other, a “problem”.

      I’ve seen a lot of smaller dogs used for Service Dogs. All of them are exclusively for medical alert; a few do small item medical item retrieval. Not a one has been a barker nor offered to lunge or bark. This is true even when you are seeing a SDiT (my state equates SDiT as SD for training purposes, program dog or not).

      There are disadvantages to having a small SD. Even though explicitly detailed as an example in the ADA, anyone who carries a small SD is automatically determined to have a fake SD. Not my choice. But whatever. Any dog smaller than a beagle, especially one that looks fluffy, is a person magnet. Yes all teams deal with this. Smaller version it is worse. If you need any guidance by your SD at all, a small SD won’t work. Know a SD trainer that currently has a small SD that is currently training a replacement because the handler requires not only the medical alert but requires the SD carry medical supplies & guide to specific locations during an episode. Replacement is a Great Pyrenees.

      My SD is small. Not sure where your medium criteria is cut off. She’s small enough to be picked up & carried. Too big to be carried very long (definitely NOT while shopping). She’s 13″ tall, 15#s.


    2. I have a trained service dog that weighs 9.8 pounds and is a 4.5 yo ShItzu. You appear so sure of your position, and are clearly incorrect. My SD attends daily gentle yoga with me and participates in all Heartfulness Meditation sessions, in complete silence for the entire sessions (both are 60 minutes in length). She sits or lays on her small blanket, unrestrained, and will not step off it, unless I direct her to do so. People are amazed at how quiet and calm she is in all public settings. At restaurants she is usually in a chest pouch, table height and will not even look at the food on the table. It comes down to training, not size, that is a rediculous concept to me. I had a 150 pound female Old English Mastiff and a 15 pound female Shitzu that I were both Therapy Dogs and I would take to work with me at a 300 bed facility for children and adults with profound mental retardation. They both did exceptional work, size did not matter.
      Fyi, my lil’ SD just came back from a Veterans retreat in the very cold mountains of NM where she and I volunteer at every retreat and she helps other Veteran’s in their healing from PTSD and other emotional struggles. Her small size has been a significant asset in her work for me, and for more others than I can count. Please do not discount small dogs as not being capable of incredible SD or Therapy Dog work, despite your lack of experience with them.
      Best wishes.


  26. This is an excellent article and I’ve shared it on Facebook. I have a therapy cat, which got me interested in all the pros and cons to animals who assist.

    Your conclusion is a good one to live by for so many topics. In my circles, talking about the real stuff would be helpful with animal rescue, animal training, community cats, etc.


  27. I was paralyzed in 2001 and had back surgery so I am out of a wheel chair and walking. I get nerve impingement, cant feel my legs and I fall. I fell in the road couldn’t get up and almost got run over. I fell at home in the kitchen hit my head on the marble counter and knocked myself unconscious woke up on the floor with a concussion and a puddle of blood. dr said wheelchair again. I said no, service dog. I was an AHT for over 15 yrs and showed dogs cats and horses my entire life. I hated being in a chair and if I can walk I will walk. I got a mobility/PTSD service dog prospect. a DoberDane. hes awsome but has a nervous edge to him at times and can be a bit high strung. I found in training him with professional trainers that he was fine with the mobility work and I knew everyone could visibly see I couldn’t walk well so there was no hiding this when he helped me up or down stairs or onto or off a curb. no secrets there. I also have PTSD. and its hard even for me to talk about this now but I hide the PTSD very well. I never wanted people to know when they were talking to me I could hear them in the distance but I was completely in another place mentally. Vincent as a young SDiT picked up on the dissociation flashbacks etc very quickly. being in such denial I didn’t want anyone knowing and when Vincent would alert to it with nudges from his nose to my hand or arm, leaning into me. if I was sitting he would put a paw in my lap if I didn’t respond to the nudges, he would come across my lap with his body and lean into me in the chair and do DPT work. I first thought this was disobedience. I would get mad and correct him. I got frustrated with the behaviours. It took my awsome service dog trainer Dawn MacDonald and Red Dog Training Solutions to see what Vincent was doing and sit me down in the middle of the mall in a training session and tell me that Vincent was doing his JOB for me and that I needed to accept his cues and tasking and understand it and stop punishing him, getting mad at him for doing HIS JOB! and I broke down and said i felt like i was being betrayed. that he was telling the whole world my dirty secret. this was the breaking point for me and a huge breakthrough as well. i finally started to give him treats for these tasks and recognizing that he knew i was not OK even when i didn’t know or didn’t want to know, or really didn’t want anyone else to know. Dawn helped Vincent become better at his PTSD tasks and helped me to learn to be ok with his tasking for PTSD too. now, i rely on Vincent completely for PTSD work and control of my PTSD too. he is better than any medication out there. He got me thru an oral surgeon apt the other day that 2 yrs ago i couldn’t get thru 10 min. the oral surgeon remembered me and had it in his notes. with Vincent on one side of the chair and head in my lap, the oral surgeon on the other side of the chair was able to do all he needed to do in one sitting right then and there with no stops and i didn’t go into a dissociative state or flashback crisis which i did a few times 2 years ago. it was amazing the difference and the oral surgeon was happy to see the improvement thanks to Vincent being there to help me get thru the appointment. in the waiting room before we got called in, Vincent knew i was very upset. he was constantly alerting, wouldn’t lay on his blanket much, was putting his paw on my lap numerous times and i didn’t realize til he put his paw there that he was even alerting to anything else any other way and he was. my son was with us and he said mom, Vincents trying to tell you to calm down its ok. and my son put his hand on my shoulder too. then Vincent came across my lap and did DPT and i put my head on his back and just laid my head on him and closed my eyes and rubbed his shoulder and side and he really made it all ok… there are no words to describe what he does for me every single day… and thanks to Dawn our awsome SD trainer im ok with it too… Thanks Dawn… and Thank you GOD for Sending me Vincent. you are the best buddy, you are the best…


  28. Yes! This! I feel it’s often expectation management. The rise in visibility and acceptance of SD’s also means some people think they will solve every problem. While in no way underestimating their value to handlers, they are sentient beings and individuals and we need to treat them as such – not robots and not slaves. As a SD assessor I feel I am the advocate for the dog and for a dog that is not suitable I will not subject it to a lifetime of stress and anxiety in a job it can’t cope with, however hard that may be for the handler to hear.
    Also, therapy dogs and SDs are two very different things. But I also often see unsuitable therapy dogs unhappy in their roles due to handlers well meaning wishes. You can’t ‘make’ a SD if the basic Behavioral soundness is not there.


  29. Thank you. We who desire Service Dogs MUST do self inventory.

    #1 Service Dogs are LIVING, feeling, beings with emotions and hearts. They are NOT immune to having a bad day, sickness or sadness/depression.

    #2 Service Dogs although “trained” to focus on their handler can be fearful of things, people, etc., eventhough trainers do their best to help them get past these fears.

    #3. Service Dogs do NOT have “super powers”. By this I mean that they although trained to ignore other dogs, people they should never be expected to not defend themselves or their human from an attack by a vicious dog running loose, or a person.

    I wouldn’t want my dog to endure such, nor do would I expect her NOT to protect me.

    So let’s MAKE SURE trainers & training includes the “how to” BEFORE this type of situation ever happens.

    #4. Service Dogs ARE a consciencious “committment”, for at least 12yrs or whatever their lifespan is. THEY ARE NOT THROW AWAY. Make sure YOU understand & know this. When retirement comes, your Service Dog deserves their well earned rest. Let’s face it…unless you yourself are totally void of any heart or feeling, you both shall love each other.

    #5 Under NO circumstance should ANY Service Dog EVER EVER be chosen for, or subjected to, or be expected to take physical or verbal abuse from their human!

    IF this is the form of disability…A SERVICE DOG IS NOT for you.

    We with whatever disability we have MUST be honest…the truth is hard…but we aren’t talking about a monitor, or wheel chair or Walker or whatever…we are talking about a living, breathing, feeling, faithful, loving dog, a Service Dog whose skills and talents have been trained and honed to HELP.

    #6 Service Dogs must be groomed, clean, treated for fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, etc., they must be current on all vaccines AND spayed or neutered. They must have a reliable Veteranarian.

    Again, I cannot stress enough…a Service Dog although a blessing, DO require our commitment to their care as well.

    God Bless you all & God Bless Service Dogs.


  30. What a terrific, realistic article. As a former dog trainer (since 1968) I understand how misinformed some people can be – not necessarily their fault. I am searching for a Service Dog myself. As a very experienced trainer I can do the training myself. No mobility issues. Just assistance picking things up and giving them to me. As a Senior Citizen with a fixed income the search isn’t easy. We live in Central Florida. If you have any suggestions I would appreciate hearing them. Due to the reasons given in yoir article I hesitate to get a rescue. Looking for a small standard or large mini. Oh yes, I can do my own grooming (13 years of grooming my mini). We are retired and have no pets or kids. The dog will never be homeless as I have firm backup if something was to happen to me. Thank you again.


  31. What about the times you have to go somewhere and someone has a fake service dog and attacks your dog. Or the times when you want to do something but your dog is not in agreement. We do really work as a society to respect the dogs that are working and not be overly entitled to think that we all just damn deserve to have one. As a dog trainer and service dog owner I hate to see fake service dogs. I have meet clients, myself and the public who have been injured or there dog has become unusable for public Access after attacks from fake service dogs. This is unacceptable and needs to end.


  32. there is a woman at one of our local dog schools who complains of people approaching her therapy dog in-training. the dog does not seem (to me) to be fully socalized, and I’m reminded of the therapy dog who bit a flight attendant recently

    when ‘everyone’ has a therapy dog, some of which are not trained or poorly trained, everyone for whom such a too is a best fit will suffer

    thank you, and please continue spreading this message !


    1. A therapy dog, and emotional support dog, and a service dog are certainly three distinct and separate things. While all three are “helper dogs”, only service animals are protected under the ADA.


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