More Service Dog Nonsense

Hello John;

I have been doing a lot of new research on training puppies as I have the opportunity to get a Husky/Malamute puppy. I have home trained my last 3 assistance dogs. My present dog is an absolutely wonderful Husky/Malamute/Labrador. She is aging and it is time to begin training another dog. Do you believe that with proper early training (encouraging what we wish, discouraging what we don’t and channelling the prey drive into something useful + socialization and obedience of course, a person could successfully reduce these breed’s prey drive – if any, into manageable or low levels? I love a lot of the Malamute temperament – the independence and calm confidence, cuddliness not to mention the size and strength.

E.

Dear E.

I have to say I think your question is moot. Unless the service you’re looking at having the dog provide is eating fish and pulling a sled, I’d say you’re looking at the wrong breed. A Husky or a Malamute is to the service dog world what a Golden Retriever is to the sled dog world. Your current dog is most likely drawing on the Lab genes to perform its duties. I don’t know of any legitimate service dog training organization that even considers Huskies or Malamutes.

Yours is a topic I’ve been giving some thought to lately. It seems if you can sew up a vest and say it’s a service dog nobody says anything. I was at a conference this year where a “service” dog spent the weekend rifling through people’s bags agitating other dogs, wandering away at every opportunity. This was not an isolated experience. I’ve seen biting, growling, snapping, running away, etc. by “service” dogs. I’m seeing more and more dogs without the temperament or the training of a legitimate service dog being called service dogs by people unqualified to say so, let alone select and train one.

The whole service animal situation is getting out of hand. I’m not sure where and who should be drawing the line but somebody needs to. Generally speaking, we’re seeing dogs of questionable temperament, “certified” by ill-qualified dog trainers, rather than approved associations, demanding access to places their dog has no business being. No one speaks up, probably out of fear of having the politically correct crowd twisting “I don’t want an unqualified animal in my place of business” to “I hate the disabled.” or “I hate animals.”

I don’t hate animals or the disabled or disabled animals or disabled people that behave like animals. I do however hate the abandonment of common sense particularly when it jeopardizes the legitimacy of true service animals. A while back I saw a news piece about a woman that insisted proximity to her horse was necessary to maintain her mental equilibrium and she rode it everywhere, even into the grocery store. I’m sure she has legitimate issues, but I have ‘issues’ too. One is I become emotionally fragile when a flatulent horse walks through the aisle I buy my salad ingredients.

A proper service animal’s purpose is to contribute to the safety and health of the owner. However not at the expense of the general public. Service dog candidates need to be selected by a specialized professional. “Many are called, few are chosen” applies. Their obedience training must include a minimum standard that isn’t so minimum. A service dog should not mean, “I own a dog, I have a need and I’ve found someone that has trained a few dogs in an unrelated discipline to “certify” my dog. True service dogs are very important, and this airy-fairy definition of service or assistance dog is sooner or later going to reflect poorly on legitimate service dogs, service dog trainers, and owners.

Regards,

John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
Embracing Science and Common Sense

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6 thoughts on “More Service Dog Nonsense”

  1. Services dogs are not required to be trained by specialists. Many people with disabilities can not afford how expensive these professionally trained dogs cost and because they are federally allowed to be trained and picked out by their handler, many do this instead. Saying they need to be selected by specialists is false. I understand the frustration with fake teams but don’t add that.

    Also to add to this, i’ve seen a lot of service dogs that are huskies and malamutes as well as a lot of other ‘odd’ breeds. They’re harder but can be just as successfully trained.

    1. This is unmitigated snowflake nonsense. An inability to afford a dog is an entirely different (and yet legitimate issue). It is not an excuse to circumvent careful selection for the genetic and temperament characteristics that are most likely to result in the level of stability and skillset required for reliability to assist its owner AND not prove an annoyance or liability to the public exposed to that dog. Even with these protocols in place, 50% of the dogs selected any legitimate service dog training agency will by the time of 18 months of age washout.

      To say that you have “seen a lot of service dogs that are huskies and malamutes” is more nonsense and highly unlikely. Neither breed is particularly well suited to this sort of work. What you have seen if you have seen “a lot” which I highly doubt are huskies and malamutes and other “odd breeds” put on the street by unethical people that believe that their needs rise above their dogs and the general public.

      It is your ill-informed selfish attitude that compromises and undermines the world of legitimate service dog training and the benefits they can provide.

      Regards,

      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense

  2. I have a service dog that is a husky and he’s an amazing dog. The breed isn’t so much of a HUGE thing it’s more of the training the breed is given.

    1. Hi Rachel,

      I’m not going to say your dog isn’t a husky. I am going to disagree that, “The breed isn’t so much of a HUGE thing it’s more of the training the breed is given” is utter nonsense and undermines your credibility completely. You have an opinion and to that, you’re entitled. You are not, however, entitled to your own facts. If, and it’s a huge ‘if’, your husky is a legitimately selected and trained service dog it is for many reasons, an exception to the rule. I might go so far as to say that I highly suspect and could easily prove that it’s a not a legitimately selected and trained service dog. I say this not to offend or challenge you, but expose people with an interest in legitimate service dogs also reading this article to truths rather than fantasies.

      Trust me, readers, Siberian Huskies are great dogs for what they were designed (I trained the dogs for the television series ‘Due South and hundreds of others over my nearly 30 year career, however, there are genetic characteristics influencing temperament and also obedience that make it difficult for most to fulfill even the most basic obedience required of a service dog.

      Is it possible there is a legitimately selected and trained Siberian Husky service dog out there somewhere? I suppose, but anyone that had one or was a legitimate trainer would never say anything as ludicrous as “The breed isn’t so much of a HUGE thing it’s more of the training the breed is given”. That screams, ignorance or stupidity. Anyone with or who trained such a Siberian Husky would know and make it clear to others that they very much have the exception to the rule and if they cared about dogs, service dog training, people that need legitimately trained service dogs they wouldn’t spew such amateurish harmful nonsense.

      Regards,

      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense

  3. angie campos

    Hey, calm down. No one is here to hurt you. There’s no way there isn’t one good service dog that is a malamute, no way. The misguided time you spent belittling your readers over the dog breed would have been better spent making YouTube videos on proper service dog training.

    1. “Calm down,” you say. “No one is here to hurt you.”, you say. “Misguided,” you say. “Hmmm?”, I think to myself. “Maybe should reread what I wrote?”, as I have no recollection of agitation or of feeling threatened. So, I did re-read what I wrote and still haven’t a clue what may have given you that impression that I was or was on the cusp of becoming hysterical, so I’ll need you to elaborate on those points.

      As to belittling; generally speaking when someone writes to me to ask a question about their dog I always assume genuine honest ignorance and I frame responses as accordingly polite as possible. However, more so in comments than in questions, once in a while an opinion will be expressed that is clearly wrong or misleading and sometimes potentially harmful. When it is clear that the person writing what is clearly wrong, misleading or potentially dangerous has little or nothing to support that opinion and their ignorance is due to one or more common cognitive biases, such as “I love dogs, so I know.”, or “I read (group think).”, or as in your case pulls the all too common “Let’s make our decisions on the basis of the exceptions to the rule” thereby potentially leading other readers astray I have no problem taking the gloves off.

      Why not just delete comments such as yours? Remember telling me, “No one is here to hurt you.”? Myopic thinking and silly amateur opinions such as yours are harmful to our dogs and/or people and in this instance, the service dog industry and are far too common. They should never be ignored or buried. They should be addressed. In the dog training world, far too many people that should really be still only be asking questions are instead speaking as if they were experts and spewing harmful pseudo-scientific and/or opinion based nonsense. People are entitled to their own opinions. They are not entitled to their own facts. Rather than bury and pretend silly opinions don’t exist I believe it’s important to illuminate them. Only then can the average companion dog owner shield themselves from armchair opinions and expertise.

      So, with that in mind let’s have a look at what you have written.

      Psychologically speaking when one strays from the facts and out of thin air attempts to inaccurately frame what someone else has said or written, for example by opening with an effort to make the person they are addressing/correcting as emotional (‘excitable and threatened’) it’s typically a conscious or unconscious attempt to shore up what more often than not is the bit of nonsense they are about to write.

      In your case, the bit of nonsense to follow was, “There’s no way there isn’t one good service dog that is a malamute, no way.”

      In the structured argument world, this is referred to as the straw man logical fallacy. It’s a cheap tactic. The following is paraphrasing from one of my favorite posters, “Thou Shalt Not Commit Logical Fallacies.” “A strawman logical fallacy is when you purposefully misrepresent someone’s argument to make it easier to attack. It involves exaggerating, misrepresenting or in your case a complete fabrication to misdirect from what I actually wrote – to make it easier to present your own ill-informed opinion. It is a kind of dishonesty that serves only to undermine rational debate.”

      Your straw man statement: “There’s no way there isn’t one good service dog that is a malamute, no way.” The strawman implication that I said something to the contrary is a complete fabrication on your part and an indication you jumped to the keyboard before carefully reading what I actually wrote.

      However, for the sake of anyone reading this that legitimately needs a service dog and is trying to educate themselves on how to best go about it, let’s assume there is a Malamute out there somewhere doing service dog work. Let’s also assume that it’s not a fake service dog. As unlikely as it may be let’s also assume it has been legitimately selected and trained by a legitimate service dog training operation. I agree it’s possible. Not likely, not the norm, and an enormously risky investment of time and money and potentially if it turns out that going against the odds doesn’t work out, a considerable psychological emotional blow to the recipient of such a dog – but yes let us agree that it is possible. What’s your point? That the exception disproves the rule and we should abandon reason? We (I) should encourage the people that write to me asking about service dogs to make their decisions about was is essentially a medical device on the basis of let’s roll the dice, exceptions to the rule?

      Why take the time to take you and the earlier writers to task? Beyond the reasons already outlined it is because I believe in the value of service dogs and know for a fact that the opinions you expressed and those before you are founded in ignorance and all too often are shielded by stubborn cognitive biases or worse plain old fashioned stupidity – and it’s bad for service dogs, bad for those that legitimately need service dogs and bad for the service dog industry.

      I receive inquiries about service dogs with increasing frequency and due to ill-informed people like yourself and the reasons outline to follow, typically send the following as my opening reply:

      Unfortunately, the service dog world is in it’s Wild West’ phase where pretty much everything and anything goes. Many people looking for service dog do not realize this, and ironically neither do almost all of the medical professionals that support and recommend service dogs for their patients. The biggest downside to this and a grave concern to me is the impact this will eventually have on the patient should the dog prove to be unqualified or unable to perform its duties or finally the Wild West period comes to an end through regulation as seems inevitable.

      What I would like to see medical professionals and others do if they are going to “prescribe” a dog in a service capacity is to take that prescription as seriously as any other. Instead of blindly signing off as if any dog can be a service dog they should understand that they should take this approach to treatment as seriously as if they were prescribing a medical aid. Which they are!

      In order to truly help and not potentially harm their patients, others and some dogs medical professionals need to look upon service dogs as what they are, legitimate medical aids/devices/prescriptions. Medical professionals need to stop blindly signing off on service dogs and lest they cause more harm than good learn to understand what constitutes a legitimate service dog. At the very least:

      1. A dog that will legitimately aid the patient.
      2. A dog that is capable of handling that which is expected of the dog without causing undue stress on the dog.
      3. A dog that will not negatively impact those that cross paths with said patient and dog.

      This Oprah-like, “Everyone gets a service dog” nonsense has resulted in more than a few disasters, some reported, most unreported due to fear of being accused of anti-dog/disability/mental health, etc. Reported or not, if it continues the credibility of the concept will be eroded which will get in the way of funding support and getting more dogs into more lives that would benefit.

      This has resulted in more than a few disasters, some reported, most unreported due to fear of being accused of anti-dog/disability/mental health, etc. Reported or not, if it continues the credibility of the concept will be eroded which will get in the way of funding support and getting more dogs into more lives that would benefit.

      Currently far, far more dogs that shouldn’t wear the title/vest do and make it harder for legitimately selected and trained dogs to be taken seriously as a genuine aid. In many cases, it’s not that the dog doesn’t provide some level of comfort to its owner, but it behaves anywhere from poorly to dangerously badly or doesn’t have a stress threshold in keeping with the lifestyle and is itself negatively impacted by the job.

      A related issue is that because the demand is far higher than the supply this drives unethical dog ‘trainers’ truly lacking the appropriate skill set to screen, ’train,’ ‘certify’ a ’service’ dogs. To be honest, it’s rare I’d meet one that I would allow to clean kennels unsupervised let alone select and train a service dog. They’re not always in it for the money either. For many, it seems to be a form of virtue signaling, getting on the “I’m a hero” train.

      You’ll have to trust that I’m not being hyperbolic when I say unless you know the dog training world the charlatans can and do pull the wool over the eyes of almost every person looking for the sort of dog you seek. Their main asset in convincing others of their ‘legitimacy’ in the unregulated world of who is a dog trainer and who is not is their own sincere belief that they are legitimate. In reality, perhaps 1 in 100 have the experience and skill set to take on such a serious responsibility.

      I believe in the value of this sort of service dog and find that even when a fully qualified dog cannot be acquired there are times where the dog at hand can play a significant role in providing comfort, perhaps not able to accompany everywhere all the time but still go far more places far more often. Even if all the boxes with the dog you have in mind can’t be checked, all is not lost. Each dog and person is a case by case situation.

      Long story short, there are good ways to go about this and bad ways. I’m going to provide a link to articles I’ve written about the scam element, and I would be happy to chat with you regarding what your needs and goals are and provide you with some guidance. My contact information is in my signature line below.

      https://www.askthedogguy.com/category/service-dogs/

      Regards,

      John ‘Ask The Dog Guy’ Wade
      Embracing Science and Common Sense

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