Debunked Myths That Will Make You Do a Head Tilt

Click or tap any of the myths below to read the buster!

Only people with severe physical impairments merit having a skilled dog to assist them.

This is a common, but overgeneralized presumption. Care should be taken to avoid absolute judgement of other people’s state of health and whether they are subsequently deserving of aid from a dog. An individual may find herself in an in-between state of being mostly capable but also grateful for help with activities that are no longer elementary. If only at-home services are needed, a dog can still be trained to provide aid in the home and without need of the “service dog” label.

Only large dogs can perform tasks to help a person.

Small dogs are often overlooked and underestimated. They can be adept at accomplishing tasks and helping people. Check out our blog “A Small Dog Can’t Do Any Real Work”.

Temperament testing predicts a dog’s behavior.

Online dating algorithms can formulate matches between people based on personality traits, likes, dislikes and situational questions. However, the results do not guarantee how each person will ultimately behave around the other. This is analogous to temperament testing of dogs. It is not to say that such evaluations are therefore useless. Conducting a temperament test can reveal a dog’s personality and spotlight tendencies or concerning reactions, all of which are good to know ahead of an adoption. Temperament evaluations are not strictly about the dog’s suitability for the person; The person must also be suitable for the dog.

A dog that doesn’t play with most other dogs is anti-social.

Assuming that the dog isn’t lunging, growling, snapping, or cowering, then perhaps he is simply introverted. There is nothing wrong with that. People who are introverts enjoy people-watching, choose not to say much unless in the presence of a few, and are adept at practicing etiquette when they do socialize. In other words, they are not anti-social. They are simply a certain kind of people that makes the world go around. Most dogs introduce themselves with sniffing the face and rear, and then double checking inspected areas. However, some prefer a much shorter intro with just a glance or abbreviated sniff, just as a person may acknowledge someone else with only a head nod. Your dog may not be playing with everyone else, but perhaps he is quietly observing others, politely introducing himself to new dogs, and being at peace on the sidelines.

If a person can manage himself when out and about, then he wouldn’t need help in the home.

This is an example of bifurcation fallacy (a.k.a. black-and-white thinking.) If a computer isn’t on, it’s off. If the sun is in the sky, then the moon is not. If a person does not need help in one instance, then he does not need help in another. Just two possibilities are assumed, but we know that a computer can be in sleep mode, which is neither on nor off. We also know it is possible for the sun and moon to be seen at the same time in the sky. We should too realize that activities in a restaurant, bank or other public place do not always mirror experiences in the home. Consider also that people’s circumstances do not necessarily change catastrophically. A gradual but steady change in a person’s physical health may cause him to cope by changing habits, such as by using a mop even for the smallest of spills to avoid bending down, carrying articles of laundry handfuls at a time, or avoiding certain types of chairs. Such lifestyle changes are significant to the individual, but mostly go unnoticed by the outside world.

A service dog, or any dog with skills training, has fewer needs than a pet dog.

A dog, no matter how well trained, is still a dog at the end of the day and her needs do not differ significantly from any other dog. Given all the amazing things a dog can do it can be tempting to presume that she can also take care of herself. A service dog does much for her human, but there must be someone to ensure that her canine needs are met daily. If an individual seeking canine help cannot in turn care for the dog, someone else would need to do so, such as a family member, friend or spouse. Take the time to assess your options – A dog is not always best for everyone. A dog is a living creature who requires attention and care no matter how much of an Einstein she may be.

A neutered male dog, or spayed female, will not hump or mount.

Try telling that to any queen size pillow, bunched up dog bedding, or large stuffed toy! Also, females can be just as amorous (or more so) as males when it comes to their favorite object of affection.

It would be convenient and easy to take a pet dog into stores when going on errands.

This myth can seem like truth…until you think about it. Let’s pretend that all laws that prohibit pet dogs in public establishments magically expired. You decide to bring your dog, Fido, along on errands. Besides getting yourself ready (get dressed, get keys, grab purse or wallet, bring list of stuff to do, put on shoes, lock up house) you need to get Fido ready too (take him out to potty, put on harness or collar, fill water bottle, pack bowl, grab leash, stuff poop-bags in pockets, put Fido in crate and secure crate in car.) Upon arriving at each destination, you need to take him out of the car, and upon each departure, you need to re-secure him back in the car. You must also handle Fido on a leash while also using your hands to hold store items, maneuver a shopping cart or pay at the cash register. Fido might be a superstar at home, but when in a public place he may behave very differently. If he is excitedly pulling every which way or is too unnerved to move, you will have to interrupt whatever you are doing to settle him down. You must pick up after him (accidents do happen), ensure he’s not disturbing other people, and look out for his safety (cars, other dogs, discarded food or garbage lying on the ground.) For responsible and thoughtful dog owners, “convenient”, “easy” and “everywhere” can be more fantasy than reality.

Small dogs don’t know their size.

Small dogs absolutely know how small they are. Some are naturally more confident or better socialized, but for those who are not, looking out for danger is front of mind. They are aware that they wouldn’t stand a chance against a person or larger dog. Both can be intimidating, even if they don’t mean to be. Since she can’t recover from an attack, she will likely assume a new thing is a threat unless convinced otherwise. She barks to alert others of possible danger. She barks to rally others to support her. She barks to ward off a stranger in the home or on the property. She barks to tell another dog that she’s tougher (even if it’s just a bluff.) Small dogs know that size does matter.

Dogs are purely predators.

Dogs are very much scavengers as well. They have lived alongside humans over thousands of years and have learned that wherever there are people, there are food scraps, bones and other organic waste material. Dogs exhibit foraging behaviors when out on a walk. They are not just sniffing for a spot to place their mark; They are also investigating what might be buried underneath tanbark, rocks or bushes (and may pop something into their mouths that would have us avoiding doggy kisses for a month.) Animals that are adaptive and good at surviving can be both hunter and scavenger. Think of the hyena, jackal and lion.

A service dog must be taken everywhere.

There is nothing that mandates a disabled person to take her service dog on all trips, all errands, or to all appointments. Context is important and in each instance, a disabled person has the prerogative to decide if she will be accompanied by her service dog.

Dogs are smarter than people.

Actually, this one might be true!


Are You and Your Furry Friend Ready for Skilled Mutts?