Size does not matter!

by Sue on August 10, 2016

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I may open up a can of worms here but I wanted to bring up a problem that is becoming more and more common. Small dogs that are growly, nippy or just flat out bite and are still being used as service dogs. This is causing a problem for people that have well behaved small service dogs.

A LOT of people do not take my service dog seriously because of his size. They think I am trying to fake a service dog because he is not a German Shepherd, a Golden Retriever, a Labradoodle, or any of the other breeds that are usually thought of as the breeds used for Service Dogs. They stereotype him as one of those snarky little dogs they see. I usually don’t say anything, I just let people think that. Then, after they watch him work, they are usually amazed. Many stating “That is the most well behaved dachshund I have ever seen” or “I didn’t know they used dachshunds as service dogs” or “I didn’t think small dogs could be service dogs” That last remark is usually replied to by a small chuckle and my “Try telling HIM he’s small” while he sits or stands with this nonchalant look on his face. Actions speak louder than words.

Gunny is a very seasoned dog. In the equine world he would be called bomb proof. But then Gunny was my Narcotics detection dog before he became my service dog. He no longer does drug searches since the legalization of marijuana in the state of Oregon. Unfortunately he is subjected to that smell on a regular basis while we are “out and about” now. I had to keep telling him to “break” when he smelled it. To him “break” means leave it and move on. Now he just ignores the scent. Shame too. He was good at that. He still detects meth though.

But I’m getting off track again.

Small dogs tend to work harder at what they do or are trained to do. I think it’s because of the fact that they are small and feel the need to prove themselves. But, like with any breed of dog, not every small dog is cut out for the work of a service dog. All dogs, regardless of size, are individuals just like you or I are. Some people are leaders, some are followers, some are timid, some are easy going. It’s the same with dogs. The perfect candidate for a service dog is a dog that can: make choices in tight situations, remain calm, have been heavily socialized (but not overly friendly. In other words, you want the dog to accept people and allow people to touch them but not be an overly friendly dog), be very devoted to their owner, be house broken and, above all, show NO aggressive tendencies what so ever. If your small dog does not fit as a service dog, do not use the dog as one.

I have heard from customers “Well my dog is small so of course he/she is going to snarl or snap when they feel threatened or someone comes near me. But that is OK, they are still a service dog” Actually no. That is wrong. The ADA states that a service dog must be well behaved in public. If a service dog shows any aggressive tendencies then they can be asked to leave. The only time this can be overlooked is if the dog was provoked. And this does not mean simply reaching out to touch the dog or similar. This means pushing the dog to a breaking point. But that rarely happens as usually a well trained service dog will just try to get away rather that become aggressive if he or she feels threatened.

Size does not matter. Big dogs or little dogs. They are all dogs. They think like dogs and can all be trained the same no matter what the size. A dog’s size is no excuse for making excuses for poor training.

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