Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fake Service Dogs

You may have noticed an increase in news stories and videos about the epidemic of Fake Service Dogs; people who do not have a disability purchasing vests and other "service dog" identifying equipment and then trying to pass their pet dog off as a service dog so that they can take their pet dog everywhere.  This causes a huge problem for people with real service dogs who actually need them.

Ice carrying my Target bag
I have heard hundreds of times "I am going to make my dog a service dog so they can go everywhere" and "I am going to go purchase my dog a vest so they can go everywhere with me." I try to explain to people that calling your dog a service dog and purchasing them a vest does not make them a service dog.  I know they mean well and that everyone loves their dog but comments like that also make me feel like my hundreds of thousands of hours I spend training my service dog trainee are not taken into account.  For two years every waking moment (and sometimes many sleepy moments) I spend training my service dog trainee.  Anything they do needs to be either positively reinforced or redirected into a good service dog skill.  Getting my keys every morning turns into 30 minutes of teaching my puppy how to pick them up and bring them to me.  Taking my socks off at night turns into 15 minutes of teaching my puppy how to pull them off. Going into the store to get a gallon of milk turns into an hour of teaching my puppy how to walk through doors, walk down aisles, ignore the food that surrounds them, sit between me and counter at check out and carrying a bag out to the car.  My service dog trainees are not well behaved because I put a vest on them and said "okay today you are a service dog," they are well behaved because of the training they have received since they were born.  Training a service dog is a never ending training process that I LOVE with every fiber of my being.

Ice waiting patiently while we were out for coffee
Yes I am super freakishly lucky that I get to take my service dog trainee everywhere but it also comes with a huge responsibility as my dog is most likely the first service dog many people have ever seen out in public.  I need to make a good first impression as this will be what they think of service dogs for quite possibly the rest of their lives.  If I walk into a business and my puppy is running all over the place, eating things off the floor, going over to greet customers, barking or basically doing anything that draws attention to them, and then a business owner says "I'm sorry no dogs allowed" and if I say "no he is a service dog, you have to allow access" the business owner will forever have a hatred for allowing service dogs into their store, not to mention all the customers that witnessed this exchange and any social media post that might go viral.  This is no good (plus that is a freakishly long sentence).  If someone with an ill-behaved pet dog does this (going into a store, not the long sentence), they too are ruining people's impression for what a service dog is.  Every store I go into my dog has to be on their best behavior and if they are not, I will leave.  There is no greater compliment for a service dog handler than "oh my god I didn't know there was a dog in here!"  When I hear that, I feel a sense of pride as  that is my job as a trainer; to teach my trainee how to be as invisible as possible while working out in public.

Enough ranting and preaching from me today but if you would like to read more, this blog did a great job elaborating why it is bad to fake service dog status:

1 comment:

  1. I need to show my sister this post, she is totally guilty of wanting to turn her dog into a fake service dog!


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