The adventures of SD Juno and SDIT Kaline (and their human, Colt).

31 January 2014

Not all service dogs are the same, or How not to be a jerk Part II

As you may have guessed, the response of many service dog handlers to my friend and her dog being in the news has my feathers exceedingly ruffled. So I shall make an addendum to my last post.

There are some in the service dog community who think they are the self-appointed Service Dog Police™. Service Dog Police™ members know how many patches are okay on a dog's vest or harness. More than that makes you a faker. They know which tasks are legitimate and exactly how those tasks should be performed. If you do it wrong, you're a faker. They also have a very short list of tools that are appropriate for a service dog to wear. If your dog wears something that is not on their list, you're a faker.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

I think we can all agree that service dogs should conform to certain standards. Like not biting, or lunging, or acting aggressively without reason. They shouldn't bark and make a nuisance of themselves in public without reason. They should be housebroken. (These are all reasons a service dog can legally be asked to leave a public place.) Beyond that, every team is different. Different standards apply to different teams. That's why the laws are so broad. 

Just because a service dog team uses a tool you don't use, or a tool you personally do not like, does not mean the team is not legitimate.

Some teams work in a flat collar. Some teams use a slip chain (this includes pretty much all program-trained guide dogs). Some, like my dogs, work in prongs. Others work in head collars or harnesses of various types. The only things that matter are: 1) Is the tool/combination of tools working for that dog and handler? and 2) Is the dog generally happy working in that tool? Training tools, and when to use and not to use them, are not up to the Service Dog Police™. They are up to each individual team. There is a reason why laws regarding service dogs don't require any specific gear.

Just because a service dog team uses a task you don't use, or a task you personally deem “unprofessional,” does not mean the team is not legitimate.

For certain service dogs, climbing into the handler's lap and beginning to lick his or her face in public might be a sign of misbehavior. A dog trained only to guide its blind handler would have no reason to do such a thing. However, a service dog trained to interrupt dissociation might do this as a task. Licking the handler's face is not inherently wrong, in some way, though the Service Dog Police™ would have you believe it is. Some even think that a dog being in the handler's lap to perform deep pressure therapy is wrong!

Some dogs never need to be off-leash to perform all their tasks. Some dogs, however, do—if they need to run and get help, or circle their handler in order to keep enough space around them, for instance. There are reasons for service dogs to be off-leash. The lack of a leash is not inherently wrong, as long as the dog is under voice control of the handler.

Service dogs sometimes need to be on laps. Sometimes they need to lick. Sometimes they seem to be pulling their handler along, when in fact they are leading that person to an exit, a safe place, or another person who can help them. Sometimes they seem to be sniffing needlessly, when in fact they are searching for their handler's human partner. Sometimes they need to be off leash. Sometimes, if they're small, they need to be carried in certain situations. Sometimes they wear blinged out vests which are extremely colorful or have lots of patches.

Sometimes, service dogs just don't conform to what some may think are unwritten service dog “rules.”

That does not give anyone the right to scream “faker” at another team.


  1. I hate the term "faker" and how some people are so judgmental. I don't understand why people feel the need or think they have the right to judge others over every little thing or anything they don't "approve" of.

    1. Yup. Most people who throw around the term “faker” can safely be termed bullies. :P

  2. Awesome post Colt . The service dog police are becoming as big a problem as the fakers these days.