Bogus Service Dog Training - Lionheart K9 - Dog and Puppy Training in Carroll, Frederick and Baltimore Counties in Maryland
The Dilemma of Bogus Service Dog Training

Yet another victim of Bogus Service Dog Training

Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder about the destiny of the human race. Bogus service dog training claims so many victims a year, it has crossed the line from simply being amoral and criminal to profitable business..

The magnitude of the incompetence reflected by these crooks is only outpaced by the gullibility of their victims.

I mean, the internet is a thing. It’s the same place that holds the entire accumulation of the world’s collective wisdom in a format you can carry in your pocket. But still, those alluring emotional appeals crafted by eloquent wordsmiths that tug at the heartstrings, appeal to the guilt, or promise all the babes and fast cars one’s heart desires, still outweigh the power of knowledge.

These stories are out there! They should act as a warning! A claxon call to be aware of potential fraud!

In a highly publicised story out of the Pacific Northwest involving a bogus service dog provider, an individual has been bilked out of a substantial amount of money, and is expected to wait for judgement from an individual that has an established track record of litigation and duplicity.

These types talk a good game, but many of these places will fill your ear with all the right words, without being able to deliver.

It’s a common refrain.

People don’t really know what they actually need. Physicians think they can dispense dogs like pharmaceuticals, and bogus service dog trainers selling bogus service dog training to folks that have no earthly idea of what owning a service dog entails, and what obligations the ‘trainer’ has to making sure the dog is a precise fit for their specific needs.

The first thing that jumped out at me from this case was the obligatory doodle mixes, comprised of at least one breed that is notoriously unsuitable as service dog candidates, unless the service was sleeping on an air conditioner vent on the hardwood floors in the owners’ home.

The second thing, after reading deeper into the article, was the fact that this animal was a puppy. Now, that word has different meanings for different people, myself included, but even at the broadest, dumbest range of its implications, there is no way an animal being called a puppy in this context, would be capable of assuming the tasks of a finished service dog. Full stop.

And the dog was afraid of everything.

Another complainant against the same outfit allegedly bought a 5 month old puppy for almost 8 thousand dollars to help mitigate issues with ambulation and diabetes. What, exactly did this individual get for their money? A high priced, untrained mutt with a “service dog” badge that had no discernable service dog skills, became impossible to walk, and was quickly becoming a liability.

Even if the end-users weren’t maintaining the training as the provider alleges, what network did that provider have in place to support those dogs in those placements? Screening for appropriate placement is equally as important as appropriate training. They had an obligation to try to help the end-user, and they didn’t.

Again, as a trainer that has assessed and trained THOUSANDS of puppies bred for specific tasks, any working dog candidate isn’t going to be a shrinking violet. That dog is going to be a curious, inquisitive, forward-thinking, forward-moving individual that has a lot of interest in the goings-on around it. A dog that did not meet that basic criterion would already be eliminated as a candidate for any serious service or working dog training program.

There are actually tests that help determine a dog’s candidacy. I would ask to know if any such tests were conducted and to see the results of those tests. Any serious working dog candidates are usually selectively bred and meticulously screened for suitability! Any documentation that logs testing and training tasks and time spent on those tasks are also considered a standard procedure and should accompany any service dog candidate!

It is a moral and ethical obligation to provide documentation. It also acts as a protection for both service dog trainer and service dog end-user if litigation should become a possibility.

Just like general dog training overall, service dog training is unregulated, and has been plagued by pariahs that have no ethical boundaries. They deliberately prey on families that are desperate for some form of guidance and help. These people will do anything for their loved ones.

My only piece of advice for folks looking to acquire a service dog is don’t allow yourself to be vulnerable. Be pragmatic and approach this like you would any other big money business deal. Have a goal, have an agenda, and understand the basic tenets of service dog training before starting this very long and perilous journey. If it sounds too good to be true, it always is.

There are a variety of things that capsize plans for service dog training, beginning with the authenticity of the folks providing the dog or the training, as well as the dog’s suitability to survive each step of the training.

Consider it the K9 equivalent of American Ninja Warrior. Not that the dogs have to complete astronomical feats of derring-do, but they are expected to be able to perform their trained skills under a lot of distractions that will compete for their attention. Remember, dogs aren’t quantum physicists, and don’t multi-task well. As a species, we don’t either, but that’s a story for another time.

The bottom line is, a service dog candidate is a measurable quantity, and it starts with selecting the most likely candidate.

Not gonna lie, having been a trainer of dogs for a variety of disciplines, including service dogs, honestly, not every dog is cut out for the task. It is demanding. The dog has to possess a certain type of temperament and mental stamina just to be able to endure the rigors of the 24/7 on-call status a service dog requires, regardless of the task. That doesn’t even include the physical ruggedness and mental acuity necessary to endure the rigorous training that comprises legitimate service dog work.

Now, I’m not going to get into what a service dog does. The A.D.A. clearly defines that and I am not going to take up precious internet real estate defining that for you, or the differences between a service dog, a therapy dog and an emotional support animal. There are two resources that definitively make those points for me.

When a service dog trainer demands to be paid in excess of 40 thousand dollars for a fully trained dog, they need to be able to justify that kind of money; itemizing that expenditure, regardless of who ultimately pays the bill. The service dog end-user demands an explanation, and if the trainer has any hopes of being able to defend themselves in a court of law, there needs to be adequate documentation.

This alarming trend is a festering ooze on the ass of dog training; an already beleaguered cesspool of incompetency, lawlessness and unregulated business practices. Although there are several consumer protections in place, there is no adequate punishment for the deliberate and calculated larceny of money for a service or product that becomes not only woefully inadequate, but a burden to maintain.

The unmitigated gall of the individual named in this particular incident speaks to a larger, more ominous problem.

The absolute lack of ethics is reflected in the comments regarding “unrealistic expectations.”


Some of these victims paid this person a minimum of 40 thousand dollars for a dog that couldn’t walk on a leash, wasn’t capable of functioning without stress in public, nor even remotely trained for any specific task, which is codified by the A.D.A. guidelines.

There needs to be a unilateral push to expand the ‘intentional misrepresentation of a service animal’ to include these bogus service dog training providers as well as the individuals misrepresenting their poorly trained animals as service dogs in otherwise restricted areas, like restaurants.

We should welcome mannerly dogs regardless of their working status, like the vast majority of Europe still does. Well-trained animals should be welcomed everywhere, the caveat being well-trained.

They are fairly easy to identify, there are still so precious few of them.

Here’s another thing- and this is gonna get me in hot water- service dog training isn’t some high form of training steeped in mysticism and ancient lore. It is an assembly of trained behaviors that are chained together to help the end-user accomplish tasks in their daily lives. It’s called obedience. Whether it’s obedience to task, to odor, or whatever, it is compliance of an order, and submission to another’s authority in this use.

Basic obedience is a given, but even then, these inept trainers limit themselves on what they consider to be basic obedience. A dog that is reliant on a device is not a  reliably trained dog. A dog that is unreliable in public is not, nor ever will be, a service dog candidate. A dog that acts fearful, defensive or otherwise non-responsive to its handler or their handler’s cues, cannot in all good conscience be called a service dog.

A service dog is unobtrusive. Although it may act as an extension of the human handler, it does not call attention to its own presence.

The tasks that the dog mitigates for their handler are almost always predicated on the trained retrieve, including turning on lights, opening doors, picking up and delivering dropped objects, holding objects, finding objects, etc. Other tasks are reliant on exploiting stays for ‘bracing’ to help the handler stand upright, steady the handler, etc. Contact targeting with feet is also useful and there are an endless number of things this useful skill may come in handy for.

Dogs used to alert for various disorders are taught detection skills tied to the odors identified as triggers for iminent health status changes, like seizure and diabetic alerts. There are other tasks associated with that, including using a device called a bringsel that the dog uses to notify a third party of an event or discovery; again, tied to the retrieve.

None of these things are inherently hard, but they do require a skillset beyond heel, sit, down, stay, come and cutesy little tricks that may have landed a spot on America’s Got Talent, but in no way reflect a task that could save a human life.

Real service dog trainers absolutely deserve the fat paycheck for the work they provide, provided they can actually do it.

It’s discouraging to see a trade I have pursued and loved since I was a wee lass, become this viperous, virtueless cesspool of iniquity that would rather fill their pockets than create meaningful relationships borne of mutual trust and respect.

Shame. Shame, shame, SHAME.

There is a reason legitimate service dog providers have a waitlist that is several years long. It take talent and time to nurture a durable, reliable service dog candidate. It isn’t cheap either. There is no such thing as a ‘free’ service dog. Somebody is paying for the dog, the training, and the cost associated with the deployment of the dog when it is ready. The larger organizations have well oiled campaigns to keep them in donations which enable them to hire top talent and procure the most suitable K9 candidates. Don’t be deceived. There are probably at least three candidates that ‘wash’ before that one good one is developed. It’s work and it’s money, and there are more dogs that don’t make the grade than do.

There is room for good, honest service dog trainers. There are no organizations that oversee the training of service dogs, the most familiar organization only supports the use of non-profit organizations to train and place assistance dogs. They, themselves, do not.

In an era of increasing demand for the use of dogs in service oriented work, there are no easy answers, only difficult and uncomfortable questions, that need be addressed before it escalates past the tipping point.

I want to end this here, because it deserved a conversation. Feel free to pass this along, and leave your comments below.