The Dog Knowledge featured on America Now!

Posted by on Feb 25th, 2014 in Blog, Dog Training, Dogs Doing Good, Press | 0 comments

Despite appearances, not all service dogs are legit.

America Now reached out The Dog Knowledge to learn more about “fake” service dogs. Check out the video that aired this morning!

Read the transcript below:

About 50 million people live with at least one disability, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports most of us will need one at some point in our life.

Service dogs come in all shapes, sizes and breeds. They help the disabled live an independent life.

Most of us have seen one wearing a special vest, collar or harness. What you may not realize is that some of these dogs are actually wearing a bogus badge and are not service dogs at all.

Fake service dogs are an unfortunate trend that continues to rise, and they’re not doing a service to those who really need them because the fake ones create safety, health and legal problems for businesses and communities.

Greater awareness will help stop the trend and here’s how you can spot one.

Trained to signal, Brio helps her handler spot the smallest trace of peanut to prevent an emergency.

Scarlett can save the life of her diabetic human by scent detection of high and low blood sugar.

Ivy is trained to do the everyday tasks that someone with a mobility disability couldn‘t do alone.

Improving someone’s livelihood or saving their life is every service dog’s job.

But it’s one easily impersonated by household pets because of unethical owners trying to reap special privileges by duping the public.

“I’ve seen a service pig, I’ve seen a service cat, I’ve actually seen a service parrot,” said Debbie Lange who is with The Dog Knowledge, a members only fitness, training and social club for dogs.

Chances are, you’ve seen a fake service animal, too.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) considers the use of a fake service dog a federal crime and in some states the offense is punishable with fines. Even though it may be regarded as a crime, it’s hard to enforce because a phony dog, or any other animal, is hard to detect.

“Technically, they don’t even need to wear a vest,” Lange pointed out.

Many fake service dogs wear fake vests which appear legitimate because it’s easy to purchase authentic-looking insignia collars, badges, identification cards and jackets online.

They can be put on nearly any household pet to help owners get them onto flights for free, or into places in which they would otherwise be banned.

For disabled individuals who rely on their service dog for independence, it is upsetting to hear about others who use fake service dogs or animals for their own personal gain.

Adam Phillips suffers from seven debilitating chronic conditions and his service dog, Finn, is his constant companion.

“It demeans what we’re going through, it demeans our struggle, it demeans the gift that these dogs really are to us,” Phillips said.

Not only does Finn fetch dropped items, he also guides Phillips’ wheelchair.

To train his canine, Phillips could have called any one of the countless service dog trainers or companies out there, but not all of these trainers are qualified to do this type of work.

“I would be highly suspect of any website where they said — ‘Bring your dog and stay with us for two weeks, for $2,000 and we’ll teach your dog,'” and Lange cautioned, “It takes months and months to get a dog to this point.”

Instead, Phillips found The Dog Knowledge whose experts train and test the dogs they certify on site to ensure their abilities. Unlike so many other dog trainers charging to certify any kind of dog, The Dog Knowledge required Phillips to verify his condition with a letter from a physician who specializes in treating Phillips’ disability.

“I carry paperwork with me everywhere I go of his [Finn’s] certification, and a letter from my doctor because I am proud of what he [Finn] does, and he is a part of this with me and he has done the work, he has done the training and he is legitimate,” Phillips stated.

Carrying this kind of documentation isn’t legally required and, unfortunately, fake paperwork is sold at a number of places on the internet.

A fast way to identify an imposter is by remembering that the Department of Justice only recognizes a dog as a service animal. Unlike a therapy or emotional support animal, it must be trained to do tasks directly related to a person’s disability.

Business owners and employees can always ask an owner if their canine is a real service dog, but the law only allows two questions to protect people’s privacy.

“Is this a service dog, and what service does it provide?” Lange added.

That’s about all you can do unless the dog becomes disruptive or dangerous which is usually a dead giveaway for a fake dog.

“Typically, a service dog is going to walk in a calm manner because they are a working dog, they are not a toy,” she said.

While a true service dog is strictly at their handler’s side, phonies wearing a vest have been seen biting, sniffing around, pulling, barking and using a business as their bathroom creating health, safety and legal issues all because of a pet owner who seized an opportunity intended to maintain the livelihood for millions of others.

“Don’t abuse a system that was put in place for honorable intentions,” Phillips said. “We work hard, we pay what we have to, we do what we have to, to feel legitimate.”

Many service dog trainers and organizations are calling for official registration agencies and standard identification cards to help weed out all the fakes.

While not all owners may be trying to take advantage and may feel their need is legit, the Department of Justice says animals whose function is to provide emotional support, comfort and well-being for things like anxiety and depression are not considered legit service dogs and are therefore not protected by the ADA’s rules. 

You can view the original story from America Now here.

Throw Your Dog a Bone — Literally!

Posted by on Feb 13th, 2014 in Blog, Dog Tips | 0 comments

What if I told you that some of your dog’s most onerous behaviors could be corrected by simply “throwing your dog a bone?”

That’s right, THROW YOUR DOG A BONE.

Understanding Your Dog’s Need to Chew, and how Chewing can Resolve Unwanted Behaviors


GSD chewing on a rawhide


As one of four senior dog trainers and behaviorists at The Dog Knowledge, Charlotte’s only People/Pup training and social club, I specialize in service and therapy dog training as well as dog assessments. In other words, when I am not training a service dog, much of my week is spent sitting down with Charlotte families and their dog to help them understand what’s really going on in that canine mind. I see everything from dogs that simply need obedience training to dogs with serious behavioral issues such as aggression and a wide range of compulsive and destructive behaviors. And while all issues can’t be resolved in our 1+ hour sessions, there are some basic things that I repeatedly tell people that are simple things they can do at home to improve their dog’s behavior. One of those simple things is to meet your dog’s inherent need to chew.

One of my first questions that I ask a family as I am reading through their written dog behavioral evaluation is:

“Do you supply your dog with appropriate, varied and interesting things to satiate his desire to chew as well as providing needed teeth cleaning?”

The answer is almost always the same. “Oh yes, my dog has a basket full of toys that he has access to all of the time.” Sometimes, they mention that they provide a hard rubber toy such as a Kong stuffed with peanut butter for their dog to enjoy in his crate. But normally once their puppy is through the teething stage, very little thought, if any is given to his chewing needs.

You can search the web and you will find hundreds of articles about things we humans can do to relieve stress. Everything from taking a leisurely evening walk, working in the garden to running a marathon or working out at the gym. A dog’s need to chew goes back since the beginning. In nature, a dog’s life depended on having strong jaws and clean healthy teeth. A dog pack might typically Live out the winter with an elk carcus chewing each day on the meat and frozen bones. One of the reasons that a dog is able to eat bacteria ridden meat that would make any human ill, is that their digestive systems are very different from ours. They actually bury bones to encourage the growth of bacteria and dig them up later for a bacteria fest. Yuck!

So, like that comforting, homey, secure feeling we have when we think of the family gathering at grandma’s house for a Thanksgiving Feast, a dog pack gathered around their den, each dog leisurely chewing a bone for hours at a time, promotes that same sense of calmness. Chewing helps pacify a dog’s habits such as excessive self-licking, scratching and other nervous behaviors. Chewing can calm a dog with separation anxiety, thunder phobia, etc. And best of all, if you provide your dog with appropriate and varied chewing options, he is far less likely to take his anxiety out on a piece of furniture.

  Rope Toy


If you asked one of our dog trainers at The Dog Knowledge,“As a professional dog trainer and dog behaviorist, what kind of bones would you give your working dogs for health and to relieve stress?” While there are breed specifics, in general our dog trainers unanimously agree on the following:

  1. First, a soft rope toy. They are available in different styles, for chewing, tugging, and throwing.
  2. Second, a firm rubber toy. These are great for jaw exercise, as they only give a little to jaw pressure. They are virtually indestructible, and come in a number of shapes and sizes, including balls, rings, and kongs. I also recommend stuffing your kong with peanut butter or simply take a fork and mash up a few leftovers from dinner to stuff the kong. Freeze the kong overnight to give your dog an extra challenge.
  3. Thirdly, I give my dogs a Compressed Rawhide Bone a couple of times a week. Compressed rawhide is different to the chemically bleached, retriever rolls which can unroll, become slimy and actually choke your dog.
  4. And finally, as both dog trainers and dog owners, the most important part of our dog’s diet is to provide them with the right kind of BONES. I personally speak for each of our canine trainers at The Dog Knowledge that we can’t stress this enough. You can give your dog fresh, smoked or boiled. Bones are one of the very few chew treats that can actually scrape tartar from the teeth. Nothing satisfies a dog’s desire to chew like a bone that can be chewed, gnawed, even held with the feet so that the end can be savored. Satisfying your puppy’s instinctive desire to chew with an appropriate object like a bone helps develop good habits, right from the start.

Compressed Rawhide


There are couple key considerations in choosing bones for your dog. First, you must choose a size big enough that your dog must gnaw on it, rather than just chewing it up. Gnawing is the action that can scrape tartar from teeth. If in doubt, get a bigger bone than you think you will need. Marrow bones, which are long tubes or bone ends, typically called knuckles, are suitable for most dogs. Bones from beef, buffalo, and lamb are in my opinion best suited for chewing.

Note: Brachiocephalic breeds such as boxers, bull dogs, pugs, and shitzu are NOT mechanically designed to be able to chew bones effectively and safely.

Whatever type of bone you choose, the first chewing session can be a bit messy. Many people let their dogs “break in” the bone in their crates, outdoors, on the deck, or on a blanket. Since at any given time we have 20+ training dogs in our dog training facility who are attending one of our 3, 4 or 6 week board (stay) and train training packages, we typically will give a training dog a bone at the end of his training day while he rests on his elevated Placebed. This is a way to reward a dog through positive reinforcement dog training for a job well done. By teaching a dog enrolled in one of our dog training packages to remain on his Placebed anytime he is enjoying a fresh bone, any messiness can easily be rinsed off. Smoked and boiled bones are usually well cleaned in the first chewing session, and will last some time. If you have chosen a big enough bone for your dog, it should not splinter or crack.


Avoid the “3 B’s”: Baked, Broiled, Barbecued. I don’t recommend feeding any baked, broiled, or barbecued bones to pets because the heat dries up the bone and makes it more brittle and subject to splintering. Cooked chicken bones and beef “T” bones are mostly the culprits. Keep pets away from these bones! However, boiling the bone can be useful. If your dog isn’t used to chewing on bones it is best to soften the bone through boiling. Also boiled bones are great for puppies to get them accustomed to chewing on bones.

  Marrow Bone


In sharp contrast to the commercial “chew treat,” a real bone contains only a bit of meat and perhaps some bone marrow, depending on how it is prepared. Real bones also can help clean teeth naturally, unlike products made from grains, sweeteners, fillers and chemically processed ingredients. Chewing helps stimulate saliva enzymes and when given AFTER meals for 10 or 15 minutes helps remove trapped food particles from the teeth. Chewing on bones also help prevent plaque buildup and gum disease especially in the back upper molars. Bones provide minerals and other nutrients (depending upon what kind of bone) and help satiate your dog’s desire for food. Bones provide the nutrients needed to keep the skeletal system fed regenerating and adapting. If you are unsure of examples of different bones feel free to stop by The Dog Knowledge, located off Wendover Road in Charlotte, NC. We sell and keep a variety of bones and other chewing options for our personal working dogs and will be happy to show you what we, as professional dog trainers recommend. We also can offer you assistance as to where you can purchase bones and other great chewing options.

    Lab Chewing