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How to Tell the Difference between Real Service Dog Vest Vs. Fake

Service dogs are emotional support or psychiatric animals that help their owners with various mental health illnesses. While there are many cases where an emotional support animal (ESA) may not be a good choice, ESAs can help various individuals who have mental health conditions or even emotional health issues.

The Bottom Line:

  • What are Service Dogs?
  • What Types Are There And How Can They Help?
  • What Do You Need to Have a Service Dog?
  • Where Can I Get a Real Service Dog Vest?
  • FAQs About Service Dogs

What Are Service Dogs?

Service dogs, otherwise known as Psychiatric Service Dogs (PSD), Emotional Support Dogs (ESDs), or therapy dogs, are known for helping individuals who have mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, phobias, and traumatic disorders. They offer support and well-being for their owners throughout their life.

Psychiatric service dogs are not to be confused with ESDs or therapy dogs. Each serves its own unique needs for its individuals. Psychiatric service dogs are specifically trained to aid their owners with tasks and jobs that they may not be able to do themselves. Service dogs are trained to perform therapies, such as deep pressure therapy during an anxiety attack or can fetch medications when their owner is unable to.

Emotional support dogs (ESDs) are not specifically trained to perform tasks. Instead, they offer emotional support to their owners. They are not recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as service animals, so they cannot have the same rules that accompany service dogs. Instead, emotional support and service animals typically stay home and offer relaxation techniques to their owners upon their arrival after a long day.

Therapy dogs are possibly seen as a dog that everybody owns. Therapy dogs are service dogs used in nursing homes, hospitals, children's hospitals, veterans' hospitals, college campuses, etc. They are used to bring relaxation and happiness to those in high-stress situations. They can bring enjoyment to those who may suffer depression or emotional distress.

Emotional support animals are not only service dogs. They can be cats, amphibians, and even miniature animals like hamsters and gerbils. Assistance animals can help you remain calm during anxiety attacks or panic attacks.

What Do You Need to Have a Service Dog?

Service dogs can help individuals who have mental or emotional illnesses. An emotional support animal can bring its owner a sense of calmness and well-being, while a psychiatric service dog can bring its owner a mental state of well-being.

For individuals who have a mental illnesses such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Physical Disabilities

One of the first steps to getting a psychiatric service dog is being diagnosed. With Pettable's licensed mental health professionals, individuals can take a short quiz, fill out a few security forms, then set up a time to meet with a licensed professional. Upon the meeting, the licensed mental health professional will determine if a trained service dog who has undergone rigorous training to be a PSD is the best fit for you and issue an emotional service animal letter, which can be used for housing and travel purposes. 

Take the short quiz here: PSD Quiz.

After determining if an emotional support or psychiatric service dog is right for you, an emotional service animal letter will be available for you, with the option of receiving it within 24 hours with the exclusion of California residents.

So, you have the letter. You know what service dog you want to work with. Now what? The next step is to get a service dog vest. However, in looking for service dog vests, there can be some vests that will not do the trick when identifying your service dog.

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Where Can I Get a Real Service Dog Vest?

While there are no federally regulated laws that state service dogs need vests, they can help reduce confusion and conflict in daily life when taking your service dog to public places or places that may not otherwise allow animals, such as restaurants, hotels, airlines, and more.

Vests are usually a color, such as red, green, or blue, that can state anything from "Service Dog" to "Working Dog" to "Emotional Support Dog." They can be any material, yet some vest materials can be better suited for climate and weather than others.

  • Mesh vests: Best for warmer climates, mesh vests are a thinner material that can help heavy fur-coat dogs stay cool outside or can help thinner-haired service dogs remain cool
  • Lightweight Cotton Vests: These vests are a bit thicker than mesh vests and are the standard material for service dog vests
  • Padded Vests: These are better suited for service dogs in colder climates, such as Northern states or countries or states that get plenty of snow or colder weather. They are typically padded to keep dogs warmer, especially when working outside.
  • Backpack Vests: These vests are best for those who travel a lot with their service dogs or dogs with many accessories. Backpack vests offer multiple pockets that owners can carry extra medication in, extra collars or leashes, identification papers for the service dog, and even foldable water bowls that can be taken on the go.

How to Tell if a Service Dog Vest is Fake

With service dog vests not legally needed, it can be difficult to tell if service dogs wearing vests are actual service dogs or not. Some clues can be noticed when determining if a service dog is an authentic, trained service dog or not.

Actions of the Service Dogs

Suppose a service dog is not behaving correctly, such as lunging at other dogs, not staying by their owners, or even barking and being aggressive. In that case, it is a reasonable assumption that it is not a service dog.

If the Service Dog Vest Does Not Look Like a Normal Vest

A working dog or service dog will typically have a colored vest that states it is a trained, professional, working service dog. If the vest looks like a typical vest, has written on it in permanent marker, has tape with writing on it, or anything similar, it is not a real service animal.

Placement of the Service Dogs

If the service dog is being carried in a purse, bag, or owner's arms or is getting a free ride in a shopping cart, the dog is not a professionally trained service dog. Instead, the dog is most likely an emotional support dog or even a family pet that the owner did not want to leave at home.

The Dogs Have Indoor Accidents

Service dogs are either professionally trained or individually trained to perform specific tasks relating to their owner. This means they are typically trained to wait to go to the bathroom outside. If a dog goes to the bathroom inside, it is safe to assume it is not a service dog.

The Dogs Seek Attention From the Public

If a service dog seeks attention from the public they are around, it is probably not a service dog. Service dogs are trained to pay attention specifically to their owners and not pay attention to the public.

The Service Dogs Are Jumping Around

Service dogs are professionally or individually trained to have impeccable leash manners and basic obedience training. Service dogs are meant to perform specific tasks, meaning they should not be jumping around or seeking attention. Service dog learns to assist their owners and ignore the public.

FAQs About Service Dogs

It can be challenging if you are looking into your service animal. Always check with a licensed mental health care provider before purchasing a service animal. Real service dogs are typically trained for a specific job. Service dogs are meant to help and aid in a better lifestyle for their owners.

What Options Are There For Training Service Dogs?

Service dog training can either be done professionally or individually. Professional service dogs can run from $20,000 to $30,000; however, independently training a natural service dog can be cheaper.

Do I Need to Register a Service Dog?

It is not legally required to register the service dog and if upon attempting to register, a site or service charges you, it is a scam. Nobody should be charging you for registering a service dog. 

Remember, whether you register a service dog or not is up to you. There are no laws that require it and you do not need to have physical identification, such as a vest, stating your dog is a service dog.

How do I Train Service Dogs?

To train a real service dog, you can either use the reward method by rewarding good behavior or use time, patience, and a good attitude to help train your service dog to be around other dogs, the public, and more.

Service dog handlers are professionals who can train service dogs to perform better for their owner's mental health. Working dogs usually focus solely on their owners and not the public or other animals.

How Do I Spot a Fake Service Dog Vest?

A service dog vest will typically look like a regular dog vest that the average pet owner has. However, it will have attachments, accessories, or sewn-in lettering stating the service dog is a real service animal. To spot a fake vest, see if there is anything like tape, permanent marker, or even paint on the vest that states it is legit.

Where Can I Find a Real Service Dog Vest?

A genuine service dog vest can be found at a typical pet store or online through virtual stores or virtual pet accessory places.

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