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Certified Service Dog Scam

Scam Alert. . . I am writing to you concerning my 1 year old Silky Terrier. He is a certified service dog. I am in a power wheelchair and he is being trained to help me with taking laundry out of the dryer and picking things up etc. The private trainer I hired to certify him was/is not reliable and she has just not been dedicated and he does not respond to my attempts to communicate. He is very smart and willing but . . .


Hi T.K.

It’s letters like this that make me wish I was Dog the Bounty Hunter instead of John the Dog Trainer. This reeked with the stench of an unethical unqualified “trainer” to not only me, but my service dog training friends.

A certified pre-adult fine boned 12″ breed known for physical frailty? Opening a dryer and then emptying it requires repeatedly jumping twice its body height. Even just hopping up and down from a wheel chair could in itself over time take its toll leading to considerable expense and heart-ache. That’s just the tip of the iceberg in what makes no sense in your unfortunate situation.

Service dog training is specialized work and very few trainers are qualified to do it. Sadly for people in need of an assistance dog it’s the wild west out there. In my province if you can spell “dog” you are as entitled to certify one as a legitimate service dog school. (Not kidding.)

Doctors are now regularly being asked by people that feel they benefit psychologically from a dog’s constant companionship to provide signed letters that thereafter legitimize the person’s right to take their “service” dog with them anywhere. Some doctors are doing it.

That’s a hard pill for me to swallow. There is no requirement for training or temperament testing. It can even have a history of biting. To me that makes as much sense as willy nilly handing out medical marijuana prescriptions at a Bob Marley concert with “Don’t worry. Be Happy” playing in the background. Some may be happy but I’d still be worried.

Sooner or later someone will be bitten or upended in a restaurant or in an office by an untrained and/or skittish dog and shortly thereafter a litigation lawyer is going to be heard asking, “Doctor, would you please outline for the court your role in the unfortunate series of events that led up to my client having your patient’s dog hanging from the seat of their pants whilst dining at the co-defendant’s restaurant?”

It really should take more than a well meaning medical professional or an unscrupulous trainer to “certify” and subsequently put the reputation of real service dogs and service dog trainers at risk. Real assistance dogs no matter how simple or complex their function aren’t given public access so freely. Dogs produced by legitimate organizations like National Service Dogs here in Canada earn every bit their status with hours and hours of training that only begins after the dog shows it has the temperament, physical stamina, and an ability to handle the stress associated with being a working dog.

In the future before you or anyone else considers hiring someone to “certify” their dog or is in a position where they might be asked to sign off on a dog as being an essential medical aid I would suggest, to get a sense of what real assistance dogs and assistance dog training is all about, a chat with the good people at National Service Dogs ( would provide a decent base line.

Pawsitively Yours

John Wade

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