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8 Service Dog Myths & Misconceptions: It’s Time To Stop Believing These

Written by: Rachel Giordano

Last Updated on April 11, 2024 by Dogster Team

man with disability with his service dog

8 Service Dog Myths & Misconceptions: It’s Time To Stop Believing These

Service dogs are lifesavers to those with disabilities. They come in all sorts of breeds and sizes, but they all have one thing in common—they have been trained to provide aid specifically catered to a person’s specific disability. Unfortunately, many myths and misconceptions surround service dogs, and some are just plainly not true.

In this guide, we’ll list eight service dog myths and misconceptions in an effort to put a stop to these false beliefs.

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The 8 Service Dog Myths & Misconceptions:

1. Service Dogs, Emotional Support Dogs, and Therapy Dogs Are All the Same

Some believe service dogs are the same as emotional support dogs (ESAs) or therapy dogs. In reality, they are all significantly different. Unlike service dogs, ESAs and therapy dogs are not allowed to accompany you on an airplane or other public places where dogs are prohibited. Another difference is service dogs are trained to do work and perform specific tasks according to the handler’s disability. One more important difference is service dogs are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), whereas ESAs and therapy dogs are not.

2. Service Dogs Must Be Professionally Trained and Registered

A very common misconception is that a service dog has to go through a certified training program in order to be a service dog. While the dog needs to be trained specifically to aid in a person’s individual disability, the dog does not need professional training, meaning either a professional canine trainer or the handler/owner themselves can train the dog. Plenty of online sites allow you to sign up for such a program, but they are often expensive and out of reach for most people with disabilities. Most importantly, it’s not needed or required.

Service dogs also do not need to be registered online. A registered service dog does not gain any more rights or special considerations than a dog that is not registered. Again, many sites offer to register your dog, but this is not a requirement.

golden retriever therapy dog
Image Credit: Ryan Stone, Unsplash

3. Business Owners Can Ask for Verification

While it may seem plausible that a business owner can ask for verification of your service dog’s status, it is an absolute no-no for them to question and is illegal for them to do so. According to the ADA, the only two questions a business owner can ask are:

  • Is the service animal required due to a disability?
  • What work or task has the dog been specifically trained for?

This misconception also applies to rental properties that ban animals on the property. If you have a service dog, the owner must permit you to have your service dog live with you on the property, and they, too, can only ask the above questions.

4. Service Dogs Only Aid People With Visible Disabilities

Sure, you can tell if a service dog is there to aid in the everyday assistance for the blind or the hearing-impaired, but not all disabilities are obvious. Service dogs aid with all types of disabilities, including persons with seizures, diabetes, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and autism, to name a few.

Service Dogs
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

5. Service Dogs Must Be Identifiable

Some believe that service dogs must wear an identifying vest, tag, collar, or other objects that prove they are service dogs. While these items are available for purchase, it is not a requirement. If anything, an owner/handler may purchase such items as a way to convey to the public that their dog is a service dog, but this is completely up to the owner’s discretion.

6. Pitbulls Cannot Be Service Dogs

Pitbulls are often a target of bad press, which gives them a bad reputation. Pitbulls are a loving breed that makes excellent companions with proper training, much like any dog breed. At any rate, according to the ADA, any dog breed can be a service dog. In fact, even cities that have banned the breed cannot discriminate against a person with a Pitbull as a service dog.

american pitbull terrier
Image Credit: Anna Krivitskaya, Shutterstock

7. Any Dog Can Be a Service Dog

We know this must be confusing, having read the previous myth, but the fact is that while any dog can be a service dog, this doesn’t mean that any dog is trainable to work and perform specific tasks for one’s specific disability.

While service dogs are not required to be professionally trained, they still must be trained and have a certain temperament and intelligence to be a service dog. They must be able to tune out distractions and be under the control of the owner/handler at all times. They also must be able to focus on their job and not seek attention from onlookers.

8. One Service Dog Is Allowed Per Person

A person in need of a service dog is not limited to just having one. This myth stems from the fact that most people have only one service dog, but the ADA does not place limits on the number per person. A person may benefit from having two service dogs, as one dog can be larger to help with mobility issues, and another can be smaller that is trained to detect an oncoming seizure.

service dog giving assistance to disabled person on wheelchair
Image Credit: 24K-Production, Shutterstock


Final Thoughts

We hope this article sheds some light on common myths and misconceptions regarding service dogs, and knowing the facts helps eliminate the confusion that often plagues this topic. Remember that any breed can be a service dog as long as they can be trained to work and perform tasks catered to a person’s specific disability. For further clarification, you can read all the necessary information regarding service dogs from the ADA website.

Featured Image Credit: 24K_Production, Shutterstock

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