Even Professionals Make Tough Choices

By-and-large, most people who are re-homing a dog are doing it because they’ve reached a point where the current living situation is dampening the quality of life for one or more individuals in the home, despite management, training, behavior modification and/or behavior medications. 

It happens to the best of us. Despite being an experienced dog guardian or maybe because of it, we sometimes have to make tough decisions about rehoming a dog. Unfortunately many people are villainized for doing it. Keyboard warriors brandish their pitch folks and say hurtful things to those who are doing right by their dogs and household. 

Sometimes relinquishing a dog means finding a shelter or rescue group to take the dog into their care and find a new family. Other times, people are fortunate to have family or friends that can adopt the dog into their homes.  

I’m lucky to have the latter. I’ve mulled over this decision for months, and although it wasn’t an easy choice, I know it’s the right choice. It is the right choice for the one I’m rehoming, Juniper, and the right choice for the ones I’m keeping with me, Tig and Sirius. 

It all started last summer. Tig, whom I adopted as a 7 week old puppy in 2020 from the shelter I work for, had started to reach social and sexual maturity. Juniper, whom I brought home from a neglect case at the end of 2019, had always been a social dog with others and was a great puppy raiser. Juniper and Tig had a wonderful relationship during Tig’s first year. But as Tig reached maturity, their dynamic started to shift. Juniper was becoming increasingly critical of Tig’s excitement levels and would over-correct her, to which Tig started to respond negatively back and they would get into fights requiring physical separation; both walking away with wounds. 

It’s no surprise to those of us that understand behavior and development, that their relationship evolved like it did but like everyone else out there I hoped it wouldn’t happen with my dogs. In very generalized terms, female-female relationships tend to be the most challenging. Especially when one or both dogs are coming into adulthood. It’s a risk we take when meshing together multi-dog households. 

With careful management over this past year, I’ve been able to minimize the number of disagreements the girls have had, but management can fail or new triggers can arise that we’re not prepared for. That adds to the daily stress for all creatures living together. 

In recent weeks, I was seeing a strain in both girls. You could cut the tension with a knife at times. If I’d travel and only take one of them with me, slow introductions and reintegration was needed every time they came back together. Yet, they could also curl up next to each other and be touching while sleeping soundly, however even then, I knew it could be short lived. 

No one should be stressed in their own home, a place where they should feel safe and comfortable. No one should feel like they are walking on eggshells in their home in fear they’ll be attached by another family member. This goes for our dogs too. 

So the decision was made to re-home Juniper; the reason being that she adapts quickly and loves the people she is starting her new chapter with. Juniper will live a life of luxury and will be well loved and cared for. She is the easier dog to re-home. Aside from her relationship with Tig, Juniper is very social with other dogs. She was often used as a helper dog at work, and I truly trust her with just about everyone out there, no matter the species. Tig, on the other hand, is very bonded to me and tends to be a one person dog. Since I adopted her as a weee little puppy, I’m also very, very bonded to her too. She would not be an easy dog to re-home. Everyone will be happier in the end, even if it is bittersweet for me. 

I’m writing this because it’s therapeutic,  but also to let others know they are not alone. To do right by our companion animals, we need to look further than our own needs and instead look at what is best for that individual animal and the others living with them. People should not be demonized for doing what’s best for their companion animals. If you’ve had to make a decision like this or are thinking about it, I’m here for you, I empathize with the emotional roller-coster of feelings we are faced with when making this decision. You are not alone, it’s okay to feel sadness, relief, grief, freedom and everything in-between. Take care of yourself and those you love so deeply.

Dog Daycares: what you should know

Doggie daycares conjure up an illusion of dogs happily flocking with other doggy friends in safe, fun environments. For some facilities this is an accurate description, however, unfortunately for many dogs, dog daycare is a stressful experience.

It is true that dogs are by nature social animals, but their social construct depends on differing variables. Not all dogs like other dogs, and many dogs are tolerant or selective about who they are placed with.

In our society, dogs are looked at as furry members. With that comes a responsibility to do our utmost to provide and care for our dogs as deeply as possible. For those that work full days and need to leave their furry family members at home for hours on end, taking their beloveds to a daycare facility seems like the perfect solution. Fido gets to play and be with his buddies all day, and when he’s picked up by his people at the end of the day, he’s tired so his people don’t feel badly about not having the time to walk or play with him.

Is the tired you’re seeing from your dog the tired you want though?


What can you can you do to ensure your dog is having a good experience and getting the best dog care possible? Here are some tips to help you:

  • Ask questions and visit the dog daycare facility before bringing your dog there.
  • What is the ratio of staff to dogs? For safety reasons, on average there should be no more than 10-15 dogs per handler in the play yards. For slower, mellow dogs, the number of dogs could increase. For active and rowdy dogs, that number should decrease to no more than 6-8 dogs per handler, and there should be more than one handler on-hand for those rowdy dogs.
  • Are to dogs actually allowed to express play behavior? Many daycare facilities with large numbers of dogs attending each day do not allow dog to actually play or run with each other for fear of fights starting.
  • What is the experience level of the managers and staff caring for your dogs? What training have they undergone to understand dog body language and how to prevent and resolve dog conflicts? Be wary of facilities that started up because they “love” dogs, but actually don’t have any formal experience.
  • What are the protocols for when dogs get into fights?
  • What is the daily schedule for the dogs? Are they in play yards the entire time?
  • What disciplinary actions does the staff take in the yards with the dogs?

As someone who has run large playgroups in shelter settings and managed a dog daycare and boarding facility, I can advise people that daycares are not a great experience for many dogs. Dogs may go home tired, but not necessarily because they are exhausted from playing and having a good time with friends but because they were stressed out and didn’t sleep all day.

Does your dog get excited to go to daycare? Do they try to escape and stay with you when you drop them off? Just like when trying out new dog collars, you have to see how your dog reacts and try to get a read on if there something they could be trying to tell you. If they are not excited and don’t want to enter the facility or go with the staff, that is red flag that your dog is not enjoying their time at the facility.

Ideal facilities will offer supervised play sessions with appropriately matched play partners. They will be given rest periods and enrichment throughout the day. Your dog should not become worse behaved at daycare facilities.

Urbane’s Updates

Hello everyone! Long time, no blog. I know, I know. Over the past few years, Urbane Animal Behavior has taken a backseat while I was traveling fairly extensively for the ASPCA assisting the Anti-Cruelty Behavior team at temporary shelters with a variety of animals from many different cases involving hoarding, cruelty, dog fighting, rescues and sanctuaries gone bad, and puppy mills.

At the end of 2017 I took an Operations Manager position for a dog daycare and boarding facility. I helped create and build that business before it came to an end, so now it’s on to a fresh re-start.

Urbane Animal Behavior will be offering a few new services: Board & Train, Day Training, and Day Camp, in addition to the already available: Private in-home sessions, and Group Classes (on a limited basis).

I’m also available for speaking opportunities. I’m excited to be presenting at the Prairie States Animal Welfare Conference next week on three separate topics! If you’re affiliated with an organization that would benefit from hosting a speaker with a wide array of experiences and knowledge of many different species, please reach out to me.

I will resume deploying for the ASPCA as well, but hope to make UAB the priority. If we’ve worked together and you and your animals have benefited from it, consider liking Urbane Animal Behavior’s facebook page and leaving a nice review. I’m excited for what the future holds, and hope that you’ll be apart of that journey with me. To reach me, click on the Contact tab. 



DIY: Frozen Treats for Dogs

If you’re looking for a healthy treat you can quickly make at home, here you go. These DIY treats are easy to whip up, and much more inexpensive than commercial frozen dog treats which can be infused with delta 9 cbd to improve your pets overall wellness,  which according to All Woman Stalk website has many benefits. Just like in humans, CBD extracts can help relieve anxiety so your dog can be calmer when you’re not home. It can also help reduce anxiety associated with noise phobias, so that your dog won’t cower every time there’s a thunderstorm or fireworks nearby. Check out the top delta 9 gummies if you are also suffering from anxiety.

What Dog Health Problems Can  CBD Oil Treat? While there’s no definitive scientific data on using discovermagazine CBD to treat dogs, there’s anecdotal evidence from dog owners suggesting it can treat pain, especially neuropathic pain, as well as helping to control seizures.

Ingredients you can use:

  • Peanut butter (use plain peanut butter with no added artificial sweeteners)
  • Plain Yogurt
  • Pumpkin purée (again, no additives)
  • Chicken broth or water

In a blender, combine equal portions of Peanut butter or Pumpkin to Yogurt. You can use powdered pumpkin for dogs too. Add broth if extra liquid is needed to make the mixture smooth.

Pour mixture into paper cups. I like to add a biscuit to the top just to fancy it up! Put in Freezer and serve once fully frozen.

Our girl typically gets one frozen treat per day. It doesn’t take her long to eat it up, but she sure loves it and when she gets full she immediately looks for her Bobby Bed that she adores!

IMG_7635 IMG_7636 IMG_7641

One-in-a-million Dog

SONY DSCThursday marked two weeks since we said goodbye to our beloved boy, Chance. Some of my readers have met Chance, and knew him personally. He had a way of touching the hearts of everyone he met.

Knowing when to say goodbye is a difficult decision. I want my animals to leave this world with dignity. I wanna make sure they get their veterinary telemedicine. I do not want to see them suffer from pain or fear. It becomes a fine-line often times on knowing when to make that decision, but I’d rather give up a few more days with my companion than to make them hang on for my selfish needs. When you’re given a timeline for the end of a life in advance, you start to think about what it will be like when that life is actually gone. We begin to inoculate ourselves against the feelings of loss and pain. But nothing really quite prepares you.

Rather than creating a “bucket list” of activities that would please us, we did things we knew Chance loved. We let him tell us how much he could handle by being tuned in to his body language; after spending nine years together we could read each other pretty well. He decided how long his walks would be, and he let us know when he just wanted to lie in the grass and let the sun beat down on him.

We honor our boy by remembering his smile. By remembering how he loved life; he was one of the happiest dogs I’ve ever known. He was a great ambassador for dogs in general, but especially for German Shepherds. In my line of work, I see many dogs with behavioral issues, and unfortunately I see many German Shepherds that are fearful and aggressive. To have a Shepherd that was outgoing and friendly with a well-adjusted temperament was a treat. He proved to others that well-adjusted German Shepherds were not mythical creatures.

To list his accomplishments:

  • Became a Canine Good Citizen at one year of age
  • Passed the Therapy Dogs International test
  • Volunteered at nursing homes and assisted living homes
  • Assisted with educational activities at schools, humane societies, and community events
  • At age nine, competed in Rally and titled Level 1 his first time out!

Chance also assisted me with training and assessing many dogs through my rescue work and with client’s dogs. I could use him as a helper dog in just about any setting. If other dogs snarked at him, he’d simply turn and walk away.

He was a one-in-a-million dog.

Chance was quiet for the most part, except for that Shepherd whine and moan at times (you know what I’m talking about, GSD people). He would only bark if someone came to the door, or when he thought other dogs were starting to play to rough at the park (there was a reason he had the nickname “The Sheriff”).

Being a Shepherd, he liked things in order, and he liked having his “flock” in one place. When we would travel cross-county, it was easy to forget you even had a dog with you because he was such an easy traveler.

He always impressed my friends when we would grab take-out and leave it in the car with him while we ran into a store and he wouldn’t eat our food. I once left 20 pounds of raw beef in the car sitting right next him, and he didn’t touch it! His only vice was used tissues in the wastebasket and, in his younger years, the occasional pair of underwear.

He loved to learn and was often referred to as the “teacher’s pet.” I attribute his attitude and excitement for learning to clicker training. Chance never wore a choke chain, pinch collar, or shock collar after he came into my life. He was a free thinker, and knew how to experiment in his environment when given access to explore and try new things. We would have fun playing new games and learning new tricks. At age nine, he was still learning new things, and teaching me in the process.

No one is perfect, but Chance came pretty dang close.

From the time he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, to when we laid him rest at our home, was only one week apart. I never wanted to say good-bye to my dog. It’s unfair really, that dogs don’t live longer. However, I am at peace with knowing I gave him a great life, and a wonderful last week of fun activities, like eating ice cream cones and going for car rides. I honored the look he gave me when it was time for him to leave his physical body behind. Goodbye my sweet boy. You will be forever loved and remembered.

Please go hug your loved ones, and give your dog a little extra scratch behind ears for me and Chance.

chance beach 5

Video of Chance eating an ice cream cone a few days before his passing. You can see the moment he got brain freeze, poor guy, but I’m pretty sure he thought it was worth it! [youtube id=”izXafI7AFqc”]

Saying Goodbye

D_1Nothing really prepares you for saying goodbye to a true friend. You can ponder what it’s going to be like, you can try to prep yourself, but when the time comes there is nothing but raw, emotional chaos.

Delilah came into my life fourteen years ago. My family had said goodbye to our long-time and trusted companion, Comrade, in early 2000. My mother was missing having a fluffy sidekick around, so it was decided that we would adopt a new companion that summer. We scoured the pet listings looking for possible candidates that met the criteria of being: fluffy, medium-sized, not a puppy, and not too hyper.

A rescue near the Twin Cities had a few dogs that piqued our interest, so my mom and I trekked a few hours away to visit them. We met a few dogs before the rescue people brought out a beautiful Aussie named “Nutmeg”. For me it was love at first sight; she was drop-dead gorgeous with a red tri-color, fluffy coat and two different-colored eyes: one blue, one brown! We walked around with her. She was playful and tuned into my requests quickly. My mom was a little uncertain at first. Thinking of Comrade and knowing this wasn’t him made the reality of actually getting a new dog a bit more difficult. As my mom sat down cross-legged on the ground and pondered whether we should take the plunge, Nutmeg came up and literally sat right in her lap and licked her face. It was right then that my mom decided to take a chance on her, saying, “Well, I guess she is making it clear who she wants to go home with”. The adoption papers were signed and our new dog gleefully jumped into the back seat of our car and rode home like a pro.  On our drive home we knew we had to rename her, and it was decided that “Delilah” would be her new name.

We learned from the rescue that Delilah was surrendered to their care by a woman whom only had Delilah for a short time as a puppy before needing to be hospitalized for dialysis. Delilah had spent much of her puppyhood at the rescue, and was just over one year old when we adopted her. She was incredibly active and über smart. Our first few days with her were a roller coaster as we all learned about each other’s personalities. Delilah chewed through an entire window sill when we left her contained in a bedroom while we headed out to dinner. Thankfully that was the only time she was inappropriately destructive. She ran off on me and sent me on a wild goose chase within the first 48 hours of having her home, but we quickly learned she would always return to the last place she had seen you.

Delilah had her mischievous side. My family has all sorts of tales to tell about Delilah and her adventures. She loved to run, and would be so clever about taking off on you. She loved to swim too, and would sneak off to jump into our neighbors pond. The horse water trough was another favorite place of hers, much to the horses disapproval of her hair in their tank. She kept us on our toes, but she also brought us so much joy.

Within the first two years we had her, she became a Canine Good Citizen and registered therapy dog through Therapy Dogs International. Before retirement, my mother was a mental health therapist and used to take Delilah with her for individual client and group sessions. Many of them felt more comfortable and at ease with Delilah there. I would volunteer at nursing homes and assisted living homes, where I would take Delilah and my German Shepherd, Indy, for visits with the residents. It wasn’t uncommon for staff workers to comment on how much the residents looked forward to the dogs visiting them, and how some of the residents really only opened up and talked when in the presence of a furry friend.

As a dog trainer, I learned many things from Delilah, and she saw me through major life events. It was during our time living together that I became a cross-over trainer and retired my use of choke chains, prongs and other aversive training techniques. She was great proof at the power of positive reinforcement training methods, and how being proactive was markedly more effective than being reactive. I was always so impressed by how quickly Delilah would learn new tricks and retain information when she was motivated by things she found reinforcing.

Delilah was there through my dating years, through heartbreaks, when I met my husband-to-be, and when we got married. She was there with me as I went through college, when I opened my pet boutique business, and when I shut its doors. When my parents retired to Florida three years ago, they took Delilah with them; she was, after all, my mom’s dog. I was fortunate to visit several times each year, and have her and my parents come for a visit last summer. During my last visit to FL a few months ago, I knew her age was catching up with her. She was slower, she had extra lumps and bumps, and some internal health concerns as well. Not knowing if it would be the last time I would see her or not, I took a locket of her beautiful red hair.

For the last several weeks, I knew that Delilah’s health was getting increasingly worse. I wished I could have made one last trip to FL to visit her, to spend time with her, and tell her what an incredible dog she is. Unfortunately that wasn’t going to happen. When I called my parents yesterday and spoke to my mom, I asked how Delilah was doing and my mom said, “Oh honey, she’s isn’t”. Those words will stick with me. Both my parents were with her as she took her last breath; they held her and told her she was an incredible dog, the best dog. More than anything, I wish I could be with my parents right now, but phone conversations and sharing our stories will have to do.

To Delilah: You were one-of-a-kind, you were sweet, silly, and smart.  Run free Fancy Pants, be free from your pain, and know we will always love you.


Reading Your Pet’s Reactions

chance_truckAs I drove my truck into the automatic carwash today and put it into neutral, the conveyer belt grabbed my tire and began to pull my truck forward, I felt my heart rate pick up, and a small wave of anxiety pass over me. I looked down at my shifter twice to make sure the vehicle was, in fact, in neutral. After that brief moment passed, I wondered why I had that reaction? I’ve taken cars through washes for years and never had a second thought about it.

Well, I quickly deduced my reaction was in response to my last experience in that exact same car wash from a month previous. I had gone in just like any other time, waiting for the sign to turn from Green-Forward to Stop-Put Your Car Neutral. Only this time I was preoccupied with something, and rather than shift my car into neutral, I accidentally shifted it into second gear. Not realizing this right away because my truck’s tire was blocked and being pulled along on the conveyer system. Suddenly, it accelerated over the block and started moving forward on the track. This wouldn’t be so bad, except for the fact that there was a car only one half car’s length in front of me. I slammed on the breaks, popped the truck into neutral and waited for the next block to carry me out. Although this wasn’t a life or death situation, or super scary, it was surprising and gave me a jolt.

Which brings me back to today’s car wash. My brain and body remembered what happened last time, and my sympathetic nervous system wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again.

Immediately, I began to think how this relates to our animals.

To the naked eye, I’m sure no one would have known that I had a brief moment of “oh crap this isn’t going to happen again, is it?” But that is exactly what I was thinking. If such a minute experience could have that kind of impact on me, what does that mean for our animals? They may have their own versions of these experiences that we are not aware of.

Reading your pet’s reactions

Our pets can’t articulate to us what it is that scares them. They can’t always tell us about their previous experiences, ones that may have had lasting impressions on them. Situations that may cause them to stop, panic, flee or fight.

It’s up to us as their guardians to keep them safe, and have them feel secure. Taking notice of your pet’s changes based on the environment they are in can give great clues about their comfort level.

These subtle changes can help in guiding you while you journey into doing systematic desensitization and counter-conditioning with an animal that is fearful or reactive in an environment or towards certain individuals.

It’s beneficial for management too. Reading your dog’s body language can alert you as to when he’s had enough social time with his dog friends, or visiting nursing homes… you name it. All animals have their limits, have their thresholds, and need breaks before they reach them.

My take away today was to be more aware of how my animals are responding and acting. If something seems to spook them, or they are acting out-of-the-ordinary, then I need to take a step back and access the situation.

  • What was the trigger(s)?
  • What was my pet’s response?
  • What was the consequence of the behavior; meaning what happened after my pet reacted?

From there I can build ways to prevent the event from happening again, or figure out how to work through it by changing the environment to set my pet up for success.

An example

Large, cargo vans driving within 15 feet of the dog and person while on a walk. The dog’s behavior is to stop, crouch and then try to bolt in the opposite direction of the van, but can’t because he’s on leash. So he makes himself low, ears back, tail tucked.

After the truck has passed, the dog is hyper-vigilant and reluctant to move. If the person allows any slack in the leash, the dog continues to attempt to bolt with low body posture until the truck is at least several blocks away. Then the dog can relax a bit more and resume going on the walk.

What can we do?

We can change the Antecedent (what comes before the dog’s behavior). That could be accomplished by walking the dog in areas where cargo vans don’t travel, taking that option out of the equation.

We could also change the consequence for the cargo van coming near by combining classical-conditioning and desensitization. As of right now, the consequence is that the dog wants to add distance between him and the van, and to do it quickly.

At a distance where the dog has not gone over threshold and is still checking in with his person, the person can positively reinforce the dog for noticing the van. They can do this using treats, toys, and adding distance between the dog and the van, meaning the person and dog walk away from the scary van.

Gradually they move closer to the van, and the person waits for the dog to communicate that he’s comfortable at that distance before advancing to the next level. Watching for body language signals that the dog is aware of the trigger and choosing a different option than the previous panic and flee is key to knowing when the dog is comfortable and ready to progress. This kind of communication with animals, where they have some choice in the matter and are treated humanely through the process, builds the strongest bonds between people and animals.

Obviously this is just a slice of what types of training and behavior modification could be done for this particular case.

Next time you’re out and about with your dog, be mindful of how your dog is responding to the environment. If you notice behavior changes, what are they? What can you do to help your dog, or what have you been doing?

Winter Walks: Keeping it Real and Safe

Having a Pit Bull (Or any other shorthaired breeds for that matter) and living through Minnesota winters can be a challenge. A short coat with virtually no hair on the underside makes for a cold dog in no time. Shivering is an obvious sign that a dog is cold, but what are some other signs to observe to determine if your dog is chilled and needs to get to a warmer temperature?

  • Dogs will appear to have a haunched over look; shoulders braced and rear end tucked under.
  • They will hold their paws up individually in the air, alternating between them.
  • Often times dogs will hold their tail close to their body or tuck it to conserve body heat.
  • They may slow their pace on walks and runs.
  • When given the opportunity, dogs may seek wind barriers; traveling close to buildings, cars, or trees
  • They will also likely have their mouth closed, again to conserve body heat.

For dogs with longer coats, it’s not always easy to tell if they are shivering so people need to watch for other signs, and also keep an eye out for snow and ice building up between the dog’s toe pads and/or clumping in their fur.

Walking dogs on city sidewalks and streets during the winter can be harmful for dogs’ feet. Places like Minnesota are well salted during the icy, snowy months and the salt can be very irritating for many dogs.

Safety tips for keeping your dog warm and healthy:

  • Use dog boots when walking in salted areas, and/or with dogs with long hair to prevent snow and ice build up on their paws. Get komondor grooming tips here. Or use a musher’s wax to create a protective barrier on your dog’s paw pads.
  • Outfit your dog with a coat or jacket; preferably one that is water-resistant or waterproof.
  • Keep your dog well hydrated during longer outings.
  • Find trails that are packed down or groomed so your dogs aren’t over exerting themselves in deep snow.
  • Always watch for subtle behavior or body language changes that will tell you your dog is getting chilled.
  • If you have a spacious yard at home and want to have a Professional Wood Fence Installation, you may hire a fence company to install a dog fencing system so your dog can play around and exercise safely in your yard.

Emma loves running and playing in the snow, but I’m always diligent to watch for changes, since she can get cold quickly. Her knee surgery scars are prone to frostbite, since she has no hair protecting the scar tissue. These are the reasons she wears a full body windbreaker, an insulated coat over top and boots. By taking these measures, she is able to go on longer hikes and romp with her German Shepherd brother who wears none of these items!

Happy trails and stay warm.butt


Service Dog Registries

No_Pets“Register your Service Dog or Emotional Support Animal for Free & travel with your pet” is the ad campaign’s catchy headline that grabbed my attention when checking my Facebook account recently.

Curious, I looked up the website to see what it was all about. As advertised, people could simply register their dog with the organization and be listed on their Service Dog Registry. People could also pay to receive kits that included items such as: Laminated ID cards, Official Certificates, and dog vests.  Depending upon what items were included in the kit, the prices ranged from $49-$119.

As I toured the site looking for information that described the qualifications for a Service Dog, I found nothing. One could just register their dog and claim it was a service dog. There was a drop-down menu of disablity choices to choose from, but nothing else required in the way of proof that your dog was indeed a trained Service Animal. There were directions for people recommending that they have identification on their dog, or a vest to indicate that it was a working dog which would limit questioning by businesses. There was also legal information advising people of their rights: saying that under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) businesses can ask if a dog is a service dog, and what duties does the dog perform. They can not ask a person what their disability is, which I agree with. I’m concerned that people could easily abuse these registries by claiming their dog is a Service Dog, when really they just want their pet dog to accompany them everywhere.

True Service Animals that perform specific tasks for their person are highly trained (check this out to know more about it), whether it’s a Guide Animal for the Blind, Impaired Hearing Service Dog, Physical Mobility Support Dog, Seizure Alert Dog, etc.. In many cases it takes months, if not  years, to get the animals to the level of training that would qualify them as a Working Service Animal. Under the ADA, these animals are considered working animals, not pets. Also, the ADA does not recognize Emotional Support Animals in the same category as Service Animals. In the case of Emotional Support Animals, businesses do have the right to ask for signed documentation from a Medical Doctor or Mental Health Provider that a dog is providing emotional support.

However, the advertisements really give the illusion to people that they can simply register their dog, and then have their dog with them everywhere; flying next them on the plane, staying in hotels, restaurants… One slogan reads “Register your Service Dog in just 2 minutes & Travel anywhere with your pet.”

I find this to be a huge disservice, as it has the great potential to harm those out there that do have trained, qualified, working Service Animals. People who truly do have disabilities, where dogs are assisting them and providing them with a better quality of life, don’t need to have the risk of that right being taken away because of someone’s untrained dog.

What happens when a pet dog is falsely represented as a Service Dog and is taken into a business establishment where dogs are not normally allowed, and then that dog reacts aggressively towards someone, or towards an actual working Service Animal? Will true Service Animals end up suffering because of other people’s negligence and selfishness?

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to take my dogs with me everywhere, but I know they are not welcome at all businesses and establishments, and for good reason. Not everyone loves my dogs like I do. I also understand that my dogs wouldn’t always be on their best behavior in all situations, and I wouldn’t want to risk my dogs getting harmed, or anyone else getting uncomfortable or even injured because I wanted to have my dog keep me company, or felt sorry for leaving my dog at home.

Even if we could take our dogs everywhere with us, would we want to? I ask this because I bet, in many cases, the dog would not be comfortable outside the confines of their home and routine stomping grounds, and would end up becoming more of a distraction for the owner than an aid. Many pet dog owners do not understand common dog body language, and end up missing subtle signs when their dog is feeling uncomfortable or anxious. It’s not until the dog is lunging, growling, or biting that they realize there is a problem, and by then it’s to late.

Until establishments openly accept companion animals to accompany us into their places of business, we better be sure the Service Animals we’re bringing inside with us are providing an actual service, are trained for the task, and are well-mannered in all situations.