When it comes to Service Dogs or Service Dogs in Training with public access, there are definite things Service Dogs in public should and should not do. Learn more about how well-trained Service Dogs should appear and what U.S. Service Dog law says about dogs who don't quite possess the skills necessary to safely work in public
Rules exist for a reason and when it comes to service dogs and service dog law, some have come to view them more as "guidelines." Whether it's someone who wishes they could take their dog everywhere or those who deny access to properly trained service dog teams, both groups harm the service dog and disabled community as a whole. Most people love their dogs, and usually, when someone tells a service dog team they meet in public that they'd like to know how to make their dog a service dog, their likely intent isn't malicious or meant to be hurtful. Nonetheless, it's a poorly thought-out aspiration. It's similar to saying, "no offense," before insulting someone. This issue is far more complex than it seems on the surface, especially when it comes to able-bodied people who actually carry out their wishes by faking service dog status with their pets. Read on to learn more about what you're insinuating by wishing for a Service Dog if you're not disabled, how masquerading pets as Service Dogs is not only extremely disrespectful, but also harmful, and some important points to consider about service dog partnership and the service dog community. Service Dog Handlers Are, By Definition, Disabled First, per U.S. federal law and the ADA, Service dog handlers must be disabled. Service Dogs perform tasks that their disabled owners would otherwise have difficulty completing on their own. If you do not have a disability, then you do not qualify for a service dog. Period. End of story. Full stop. There are no exceptions. By expressing a desire for a service dog, you're also wishing for the accompanying disability. For a disabled person, hearing an able-bodied person openly wish for a disability (even if you don't actually say those words) is deeply hurtful. It suggests you don't take them or their disability seriously and furthermore, it makes light of the thousands of hours of training and socialization their partner has undergone to perform his job. From time to time, when disabled service dog handlers or service dog trainers are out in public, they're approached by someone with a wistful look and a story about how their dog would be "just perfect!" for service dog work. They wish they could take their dog everywhere, too, but there's one problem: they don't understand that the right to be accompanied by a fully-trained service dog comes with a cascading pile of problems
Since the United States doesn't recognize Service Dog "certifications," the only way to tell a properly trained Service Dog from a fake is by behavior. Read on to learn more about what a Service Dog should act like. Every Service Dog Team is Unique Every Service Dog team has unique abilities, needs, and work styles. No two teams possess the same training since every disability is different. What works for one team may not work for others. However, it's vital to note that every "real" Service Dog has one thing in common: they're individually trained to meet the needs of a person with a disability. This individual training specifically addresses their person's needs. The behaviors, tasks, and work the dog does for their handler aren't "natural" behaviors or things any dog could do. The training is precise and exact. The trained behaviors are on cue, reliable, and repeatable. The dog's response to the cue/command is predictable since it's a trained behavior. As an example, a Service Dog who is trained to nudge their handler's hand when the handler becomes frozen in fear is different from a dog who naturally pushes and shoves with their muzzle. The second dog's behavior cannot be predicted and it isn't on cue. Therefore, it's not a trained behavior and does not count as a Service Dog task, even if it's helpful. Emotional Support Is Not a Trained Task All dogs can provide emotional support. You can't train a dog to provide emotional support, however you can train a dog to provide deep pressure stimulation to ground the handler during a panic attack or to alert the handler to a person approaching from behind. These actions are then called "tasks" or "work" and can be labeled. A dog who is not trained to reliably provide tasks and/or work that help their handler do things they couldn't do on their own in response to specific cues or commands is not a Service Dog. Dogs in public masquerading as Service Dogs who aren't Service Dogs do not possess the caliber of training necessary to work calmly and reliably. Fake Service Dogs create a lot of complications for real Service Dog teams. Namely, they create suspicion and access issues for well-trained teams. Service Dog Behavior: General Manners Service Dogs appear calm, relaxed, and able to focus while working with their partner in public. They should have good manners. They shouldn't jump, bark uncontrollably, growl, appear out of control,
Rules exist for a reason and when it comes to Service Dogs and Service Dog law, too many people have come to view them more as “guidelines.” Whether it’s someone who wishes they could take their dog everywhere or someone who has chosen to break the law by presenting their pet as a fake Service Dog, both actions cause damage and harm to the Service Dog and disabled community.
It's not clear if she was joking or not, but actress and comedian Natasha Leggero claimed to pretend she has epilepsy so that she could bring her pet into restaurants as a Service Dog on national TV Monday night.