How do you handle encounters?

by Sue on May 7, 2014

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It seems that society has put a stereotype on Service Dogs. The public seems to think that if it is not a large dog (Lab, Shepherd, Doodle, etc) it is not a service dog. I have a 16 pound dog that has been my service dog for 7 years. He does his job well and takes it very seriously. While we do not have much of a problem with acceptance here locally, I still, on rare occasions, encounter problems with acceptance of him just due to his size.

I approach the situation with a positive, friendly attitude. Which usually defrays any front put up by a store manage or owner. Though there have been a few times I have had to get firm and stand my ground.

Do you have a service dog that is small or an unusual breed? Have you encountered problems simply based on the dog’s breed alone? How do you handle it?

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alyssa Magnuson 05.10.14 at 5:30 pm

Sue, my service dog is a pure bred black Labrador retriever. Therefore she is not an unusual breed. However, Charlotte, my service dog was trained by freedom paws assistance dogs and her trainer adopts most of the service dogs she trains from our local animal shelter. They are amazing dogs! She has trained many unusual breeds such as a boxer, a dachshund, and even a little papillon. Charlotte and I went many places with these dogs during training and we got a few weird looks when we had, Lady Bug, the papillon with us but nobody ever said anything to us.

2 Ms Chris 05.12.14 at 6:16 am

I have had a long coat Chihuahua as my Service dog for the past 5 yrs. I try very hard to keep a sweet voice while helping people to understand that not all service dogs have to be large breeds. I then point to my knee braces and say, “It’s not like I can really talk a big dog for a walk” They tend to giggle at that. Then I tell them very politly that there are all different sizes of Service dogs now, since there are so many different types of disabilities. Some just get mad, no matter how hard I try to stay nice and positive. So yes, there are times when I have to be ‘more aggressive’ and it’s so difficult to have parents keep their children from trying to pet my dog, because he is “so cute”. He has been trained to bite if a person persist in trying to pet him, and it says so right on his cape!

3 Carmen 05.12.14 at 7:19 am

I had a Brussels Griffon until 3 weeks ago and as she was only 8 1/2 lbs and I carried her due to her being kicked and stepped on ans well as accosted by children we did have issues. The stores we frequented did not have issues, except for Walmart greeters and on one occasion a man raised his voice and got very aggressive. I got loud right back but in a clam manner insisting that he bring a superior to that very spot. I am pleasant and happy to explain Medical alert dogs to the public if it is a matter of ignorance but I don’t handle stupid very well. I need to do better on it but in my experience stupid does not want to be educated it wants to throw it’s weight around and so now I simply stand there and ask for a superior of the local sherrif to be brought to explain what they will not listen to me on.

4 bernard 05.12.14 at 8:10 am

We have a small dog he is my wifes therapy dog but he also is her service dog but we take him every where

5 Patch Guglielmino 05.12.14 at 8:23 am

I have a well-trained Border Collie with medium hair. People do ask me why she isn’t one of those other breeds. And here is the kicker: Border Collies are crazy and hyper they say as my dog quietly lays by my side taking her job seriously. I wish people were allowed to look for the certification I carry because where I live near the city of Santa Rosa in California many many people have dogs that are not service dogs and they say they are. I work in a hospital and they bring in these misbehaved animals claiming service dogs and we can’t challenge it. This I believe is what is making it difficult for us who have off breeds that are legitimate service animals.

6 Jay richRdson 05.12.14 at 8:53 am

Story of my life! I have a 4 pound hearing dog and am constantly being told “that can’t be a service dog” – even when she is wearing her vest. I resist providing the audiology documentation because I find it demeaning, however, as a learning tool I will sometimes do that. There is a stereotype that all service dogs are mobility/sight dogs. My dog is small and has great ears that don’t miss a sound. She is truly my link to the environment!

7 Lu & Mocha 05.12.14 at 8:58 am

Mine is a 16lb cock-a-poo. She wears a vest and I have an ID for times when my MS or Seizures don’t allow me to speak clearly.
I’m in w.chair and she rides on my lap so I can see her signals, unless I need her assistance in staying on the sidewalk. Altho it can be exhausting at times, I use each outing as a teaching opportunity, sharing why she’s small, why she rides on my lap, what her jacket means.
All my Service Dogs have been small (for the last 30 years) and I can count on one hand the number of times it’s ever been an issue. We’ve even flown easily.
She’s always professional (no frilly clothes, collars or retractable leash—the we do have one for private romps).
Small dogs are becoming more of an issue, thanks in part due to folks trying to pass cute pets off as Service Dogs. Altho the dog’s demeanor (Service Dogs mean business and behave accordingly) usually makes things clear before long.
Smaller dogs have always been unusual simply because most folks DO need a big dog for the extra services they can provide (yet as the needs increase, folks who aren’t able to care for a big dog aren’t awarded one)……soooo communication, phrases like: “I’m glad you asked that question”, and etc., in my mind, are the key to raising a new generation of aware-savvy folks.
Sorry you’ve had problems. Wishing you all the best.

8 gayle 05.12.14 at 9:06 am

My service dog is a 140 pound Rottweiler.They are always taking pictures of him. Said I need to change his name to Hollywood.

9 Laurie 05.12.14 at 9:33 am

Hi folks,
My service animal is a Jack Russell Terrier. I make it easier on the world at large by having her jacket on first of all, and some people ask if they can touch or pet her,and everyone assumes she is a he…I think it is the breed. But I have been fortunate in not having issue with her size..she is a solid 13 lbs. very sweet, and I often spend time communicating with people I prefer that she not be touched without permission, that she is working. I am aware that my dog comes across as “cute” but most folks seem genuinely friendly and just unaware rather than hostile. I must let them know she is not available for their kids…that’s more an issue sometimes…..

10 Judy 05.14.14 at 10:42 pm

My Medical Alert SD is a Bichon Frise. She wears a vest. I found a patch that says has a stop sign in the center which alerts people who want to pet. The patch says, I’m cute I’m working. Do not pet. It has helped a lot. I don’t have as much trouble since we moved to a larger city. But I look for opportunities to educate. Most people just don’t know the laws.

11 Bear 05.20.14 at 9:51 pm

What I run into isn’t that Mamma Winnie is small. Instead it is because she is half large lab and half Great Pyrenees. Because of her size people are afraid of her and claim that she can’t be a real service dog because she is too big.

She only weighs 125 pounds and is needed to help me with balance. My weight runs somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 pounds give or take 10 pounds on any given appointment. She has to be large and sturdy to help keep me up and if I do fall when she isn’t right by my side at home, she must have the strength of those dogs to help me get up. And as it is, she just is big enough. Any smaller and she wouldn’t be able to do what I need help with.

Even though this young girl is very gentle with everyone, most people are afraid of her because she is so large. I even have one neighbor that is trying to claim that because of her size, she isn’t a service dog but that she is a watch dog. We laughed and told them that she would never pass watchdog school.

When I take her out to do her business, if any of the dogs in the area bark, she perks up her ears to listen then immediately goes into heel and tells me she is ready to go in NOW lol. Yet let me put her gear on her and they can bark all they want and she ignores them.

12 Frank 05.28.14 at 11:41 pm

I have a Morkie, she weighs about seven pounds, She was taught not to bark, when she got that down, she was only taught to bark on command when I fall, I have a Muscular disorder that weakens my leg strength. She wears her tags and sometimes a vest, but for the most part I am never bothered about her wherever we go together. Yes the hardest part is saying no, she is a working animal, especially to the children who seem very excited to want to have interaction. Most people understand and are very interested in how she is a service animal for me. Your tags, vests, cards, are a lifesaver, thank you.

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