Identifying Fake Service Dog: Proof that They Aren’t Real

One of the major problems that the service dog industry is facing today is the birth of the so-called fake service dogs. But, are there any signs or proof on how to clearly identify a fake service dog from a real one? As pet owners or not, we need to be aware and know this information. Here, we will give you relevant information regarding this big doggy issue.


There is much negative feedback  and bad impressions left by people who take fake service dogs into public places. The main concern here does not only lie on the own benefit of the handler of the fake service dog. Rather, it’s all about the danger that the animal may face. Other concerns are also about the danger that a fake service dog may create for other people, and for legitimate service dogs.

Fake service dogs create problems for service dog partners that are legally working in variety of ways such as:

1. Bringing dogs without training in public areas and labeling them as a service dogs

This is the number one and the most widespread problem created by those fake service dogs. Since they do not have the proper training to perform a specific task and usually, they behave inappropriately in public, appreciation for real service dogs is very much challenging. An aboard aircraft is one of the most common public places where fake service dogs show up.

Under the Air Carrier Access Act, as long as owners have an approval from a doctor or licensed therapist, airlines may permit animals giving emotional support on board flights. However, this law is ambiguous. The law doesn’t define which human afflictions need an emotional support animal during the flight. Therefore, many individual inaccurately affirm their dogs support them emotionally with just plain note from a physician.

Moreover, people tend to place their dogs in push carts or let them slouch on the resto. But, none of these is an approved behavior of service dogs. Other unacceptable behaviors that service dogs are not allowed to do are to seek other people’s or dog’s attention or to bark or whine continuously. Further, some owner also let the dog smell strangers.

It is a threat to the reputation of legitimate service dogs when people claim to have a service animal that does not have proper training. This may also make it harder for people with working dogs to gain the respect of business owners. Also, respect from people in public places and the public, in general, may be harder to gain as well.

2. Unconsciously instructing unacceptable behavior to public areas

An actual service dog is there to guide you in all possible ways. They need to focus on their job. While doing this, their owners already have to deal with  people trying to socialize with and otherwise distract their dog. When your dog is not doing his job for you, he or she shouldn’t have to distracted with strangers greeting him or otherwise interacting with them.  As cute and lovable as he may be when not working, work time is not the time for play, pets, or treats.

Moreover, fake service dogs can also cause issues for real service dog-and-handler teams. This is by fake service dogs being reactive or approaching other dogs to play. Fake service dogs can also create trouble by responding inappropriately. These inappropriate response include husking, hulling, beefing, and other inappropriate behaviors in confined spaces like restaurants and shops.

Negative reactions of fake service dogs may be dangerous to a real service dog. A real service dog has to worry about those dogs acting aggressively towards them. Because of this, they cannot focus on their handler’s need and that can be downright dangerous for both the real service dog and its handler. It can ultimately cause anxiety for both the service dog and his handler.

After being attacked by fake service dogs, this may lead to rehabilitation or retirement of the real service dogs that have undergone years of training. This event is a significant loss to the handler who needs a working dog in his daily life in navigating the world. Further, the problems of fake service dogs go more beyond the perception issue. There’s also an impact on the well-being of real service dogs.

3. Causing stress to pet dogs that are marked as service dogs

We know that service dogs undergo proper training in interacting with playing children, adults randomly touching them, and people reaching for them from all directions. These gestures and actions can cause pressure on pet dogs. Usual reaction with these by some pet dogs is to shut down in the face of such stressors. However, some dogs will be so stressed out that they lash out. This is not only unpleasant for the dog but dangerous to the dog, owner, and the general public.

Generally, the problem created by fake service dogs are not limited to people who perpetuate the fake service dog myth. Those websites that claim to register dogs as service animals can also be accountable for this problem. This may confuse pet owners by thinking that they comply with the rules by registering their animal. However, what causes even more confusion is the certificates or identification cards mailed out to pet owners who flash them in public.


Based on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), they allow service dogs working in the US to accompany their handlers virtually anywhere. This is as long as their handler remains in control of them. But, the law does not require people to register service dogs, or to have an explain their condition. Thus, having certificate of training can very beneficial if the dog has been through a professional training program. Trainers differ as well as any State or Country requirements differ, however, usually there will be a completion certificate or at a minimum a training record.  If you are training your own service dog, you can also log your training time and sessions for later review.  Again, this is NOT required per ADA. The following process may guide you in obtaining those service dog papers.

1. Train your dog

A service dog needs to mentally equipped to explore the environment for themselves while also focusing to the needs of the owner. Able to perform jobs is also a part of their training. But, it is an option for you to train your dog as a service animal. Doing so, it is very crucial to realize that your dog may not actually have what it takes to be an effective helper.  That does not diminish the fact that you love your dog, it just means that they will not be a good service animal and pushing them beyond their limits is ultimately bad for the dog.

You also have to keep in mind that it takes a couple of years of intense daily training of your dog. Also, a continued training throughout the dog’s lifetime to maintain those skills may take so much time as well. This might sound disappointing, but, as a dog owner, meticulous training might be something you don’t wish to take on. This is especially true if your only goal is to legally be able to take your pet with you everywhere you go.

Educating your dog to be a service dog requires train your dog with the correct curriculum and task training for your disability. This can definitely get you in over your head trying to go the DIY route with service dog training.  Getting tips and help from trainers that have experience training dogs to work with your disability is extremely helpful for both you and your service dog in training.  That training also gives credibility of legitimate service dogs everywhere.

How to train your dog to be a Real Service Dog?

Getting started in training your dog to be a real service dog can be quite confusing and is very challenging to figure out on your own. Here are some tips that might help you to train your dog to be in service.

♦ Seek professional advice

It is always a good choice to consult a medical professional if both of you feel that a service dog would benefit you and you think your pet dog is an ideal candidate. With this, the first thing to do is to search for a reliable trainer who has experience in training both service dogs and handlers. An exceptionally skilled trainer is important to train your dog. But, you will also benefit from his skills because you will be doing practically all of the hands-on training. The trainer gives you guidance on the daily tasks and gives ideas on improving to an updated skills of your dog. So, they need to be good at teaching people as well.

♦ Research in looking the correct trainer

You have to do your own research in finding the right trainer for you. It is better to set up an evaluation so the trainer can let you know if she thinks your dog will be able to handle the responsibility. Prepare yourself to hear if the trainer tells that your pet should remain a pet. But, if both of you passed the initial evaluation, then you’ll be able to move forward in training over the next months, or a year or two, of daily work.

Keep in mind that building your dog’s service skills is a long process. In the early stage of training, the dog undergoes the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test. Afterwards, the dog may proceed to the public access standards as set by Assistance Dogs International. When the dog and the handler pass at the end of this rigorous process, the handler may choose to register with an online resource (this is NOT required per ADA). They can do this so knowing that their dog has met all the requirements and can actually do the job they need to do.

♦ Taking the final exam

The final exam for a service dog is answering this question:

Can a service dog perform tasks that help a handler cope with a disability and be with that handler at all times, remaining calm in any public situation?

You must be aware that there is a federal law that allows businesses and organizations to remove from the premises a service dog that is out of control or that isn’t housebroken. Through this, you will know that your service dog’s training and your abilities as a handler is the real access pass to public places and not some certificate bought online.

Nowadays, certifications and ID cards can be faked. But always remember that a good service dog behavior can’t be obtained in just a day. It takes an incredible amount of time and dedication for your dog to have it. There are always people who want to take their dogs with them everywhere, so they will buy a service dog vest or an ID and slap it on a pet. They are not the kind of people who will put in two years of training to make sure that their dog can handle it.

However, if you and your dog are willing to invest years into training, then you certainly have the potential to become a legitimate team. That way, you can add respect to the reputation of service dogs and handlers everywhere.

2. Licensing your dog

Check dog licensing local laws where you live.

A service dog need to conform with all local licensing and registration policies. Licensing programs usually includes having rabies vaccination and using collar tags. There are cities that certain dog breeds are not allowed. This is because of their belief that those breeds shows potential danger to the health status and safety state of the people. However, service dogs must be exempted from those bans.

It is not valid to have a mandatory registration of service dogs under the ADA. Moreover, some local communities may offer special service dog tags in addition to regular dog tags. It is a voluntary participation to your community if they offer service dog tags or special registration, participation. Further, registration may provide important benefits most especially during emergency cases. Responders’ initial action is to look for your dog during this time.  This is where an ID Card can be very helpful, although not required by law, you can have an ID Card made & attached to your service dogs vest that identifies your dog with a picture and gives your information.  That way, should you become unconscious or get separated from your dog, not only do first responders know that the dog belongs to you, they also know to transport you together as a team to medical facilities rather than to have your dog picked up and taken to a local dog pound.

Get an authorized training organization to certify your dog.

The grueling test is a test given to service dog. When he succeeds with the test, he may be one of the best service dogs in the world. Moreover, don’t be disappointed if your dog fails. There are more than half of the service dogs with professional training under authorized professional trainers cannot pass this test. ADI is an institution that accredits a training institution who may give this test.

Enrolling your dog with the universal Service Dog Registry.

This kind of registration is VOLUNTARY and the United States Service Dog Registry or USSDR does not require it. There are people whom feel that registering with this organization, they commit a higher standard of training and behavior together with their service dogs..

Including your dog in the list of the USSDR gets you a sole identification number. You can make a dog profile that looks like a resume. This is a list of your dog’s training, certifications, and achievements. Anyone who looks up your dog’s number will be able to view this information.

This number can be very helpful if you find yourself around someone who is nervous about your service dog. Having this on your dog’s profile makes people feel at ease that your dog is educated enough and would never be a threat to people.


People labeling their pets as fake service dogs have become a widespread problem. And it is really a question on how to identify a fake service dog versus a real one. Since the law does not require the real service dogs to carry any papers or proof of identification in the general public, this makes spotting the fakes exceptionally difficult. However, a service dog that shows any of these behaviors, it’s most likely a fake.

1. Doggy inside a Cart

Service dogs undergo training in countless different kinds of jobs. But no matter what their specific task is, they always need to be alert and ready to do their job. Giving your dog a free ride in a shopping cart means that they’re unable to perform their duty. However, there are always exceptions. An example is a small dog held close to a person’s chest. There are small dogs that have the proper training to monitor certain bodily functions and need to keep close to their owners.

2. No Leash

This behavior is very ironic, but you’ll never see a service dog with proper training out in the public without leash. They are able enough of staying by the owner. However, leashes are used to protect the dog. Part of a dog’s owner accountability is always using a leash.

3. Hauling on the Leash

Service dogs developed impeccable leash manners. They never pull and always stick close to their owner’s side. Mobility and support assistance dogs may depend into their gear as needed in their work. However, dragging their person in opposite directions is not their thing.

4. Hulling or husking

Some dogs undergo proper training to hull or husk as a warning to their owner of potential medical condition, like a stroke or seizure attack. Despite those isolated sounds, a service dog doesn’t hull at another dog or husk out of indifference.

5. Sniffing Everything

All dogs have a strong sense of smell compared to other senses. Because of this, taking your pet on a walk usually involves a whole lot of sniffing. Service dogs have the proper training to keep an eye on their work. This way they won’t be careening down aisles sniffing everything on the lower shelves. So those aromas are a obstruction to a service dog’s work.

6. Have Indoor “Accidents”

Remember to not bring your dog that doesn’t undergo full house training into an indoor public area. Take note that for male dogs especially, indoor accidents are not always that way. Instead, it’s the dog’s way of putting mark on another territory. Whether they do it purposely or not, urination or defecation inside a confined space is an unacceptable manner for service dogs.

7. Steal Foods

A real hard habit to break for a pet is stealing food. Whether that food is off a table, out of someone’s hand, or something they found on the ground. However, resisting temptations is one of the first lessons a service dog learns.

8. Look Nervous

Real service dog seems calm and confident no matter what’s the commotion in the area. This is because of socialization which is a major process in service dog training. They won’t be threatened by blasting rattles or large mass, and they won’t put down their tails between their legs.

9. Seek Attention

Service dogs know they have a specific task to perform. They only have their focus for the person on the other end of their leash. Placing their noses into a stranger’s area looking for head touch is a no-no for them.

10. Aggressive

Some service dogs have proper training for protecting and guarding purposes. But, that doesn’t mean they lash out at other people or animals without being instructed. A dog that is whining, hulling or showing other signs of subdued hostility is not a real service dog.


  1. The ADA stipulates that they don’t approve service dogs to have a vests or harnesses. However, most handlers allow their dogs to wear vests that have solid-colors for identification in public areas that he is not a household pet. This may impose a bit difficulty on how to identify fake service dog, however, behavior is a dead giveaway.
  2. Please remain calm and courteous in case you encounter someone who is unfamiliar with the ADA or disputes your right to have your service dog with you. You can discuss that your dog has training in assisting you with your medical condition, but you do not have to stipulate your condition.
  3. The cleanliness of your dog at all times will prevent potential problems in public areas. This may also eliminate the problem on how to identify fake service dog.
  4. Document any encounter in case your access to a public place with your service dog has been denied. Call the attention of ADA or your local police department.

Just a simple warning, you can buy online service animal certifications for your dog. However, please be reminded that these papers do not give you and your dog any greater rights. Also, these do not serve as proof that your dog is a service animal as well. It is crucial to know that it is a federal crime to have those fake service dog papers and trying to pass off your dog. It’s better comply to the state and federal laws to prevent dangers to you, your dog, and to the public.

Identifying Fake Service Dog: Proof that They Aren’t Real

by Mr Bigs Mom time to read: 13 min