Explaining Support Animals

Explaining Support Animals blog

WHAT DO SERVICE ANIMALS DO? Service animals perform a task(s) for a specific person; such as, seizure response, mobility assistance, autism assistance, hearing/visual assistance, psychiatric assistance, diabetic or allergy alert, etc.

  • is not housetrained (e.g., urinating/defecating in a restaurant, etc.)
  • is posing a threat to the safety of others
  • is not being controlled by the handler
  • cannot be reasonably accommodated due to size or weight (usually applies to horses)
  • Is the animal required because of a disability?
  • What work or task has this animal been trained to perform?
  • ask about the nature or extent of the disability
  • request documentation
  • require a vest on the animal
  • require a harness and leash as it can interfere with the animal’s ability to perform the task
Service animals perform a task or tasks for a specific person.
Service animals perform a task or tasks for a specific person.
Don’t fake SA or ESA credentials just so you can take your pet along. Incidents with uncontrolled imposters puts others at risk and make life difficult for those who legitimately need support animals.

WHAT DO EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS DO? Emotional support animals provide therapeutic support and companionship to their person.

  • the patient’s name
  • the letter writer’s relationship to the patient
  • the purpose for the ESA
  • the type of animal for which accommodations are being asked
  • refuse to rent or sell housing because of an ESA
  • evict a tenant because of an ESA
  • charge higher rent, a pet deposit or a pet fee to a person with an ESA
  • refuse to provide reasonable accommodations or modifications
  • refuse to provide housing on the basis of breed or weight restrictions
  • contact the writer of the ESA letter or ask the individual for details of their disability
  • the individual does not provide an ESA letter or provides fake documentation
  • the housing provider demonstrates that necessary accommodations/modifications would impose an undue financial and administrative burden
  • the request would fundamentally alter the essential nature of the operations
  • the ESA poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others despite any other reasonable accommodations that could eliminate or reduce the threat
  • the ESA would or does cause significant damage to the property of others despite any other reasonable accommodations that could eliminate or reduce the threat

Service Animals vs Emotional Support Animals

Emotional Support Animal Regulations & Guidelines

Discussing ESA Considerations with Your Client

3 Things Therapists Need to Provide Before Providing an ESA Letter

ESA Letter Templates for Housing & Travel

Emotional support animals provide therapeutic companionship to their person.
Emotional support animals provide therapeutic companionship to their person.

WHAT DO THERAPY ANIMALS DO? Therapy animals provide comfort and support to people other than their handler.

  • You must comply with your state and municipality laws. In Wisconsin, all dogs and cats must be up to date on rabies vaccinations and licensed in their home county. However, there are no such requirements for other animals in the state of Wisconsin.
  • Your national organization may have additional requirements such as additional vaccinations, annual fecal exams or annual veterinary wellness exams.
Therapy animals do not have the same public access privileges as service support animals.
Therapy animals must be a good fit for the environment in which they will be working. As can be seen here, this dog’s body language is saying that he is not comfortable . Therapy work in certain environments or therapy work in general may not be the right fit for every dog … and that’s okay.

WHAT DO COMPANION ANIMALS DO? Our pets are our companions, our partners, our teammates, our comfort, our home … They give us joy, join us in activities and give us comfort.

Companion animals provide comfort, and can function as emotional support animals.
Our pets are our companions, our partners, our teammates, our comfort, our home ..

The Box Game

Level 1: Upsidedown


Level 2: Box Game on its Side

Level 3: Reaching Inside

Level 4: Flaps Out

Level 5: Adding Elements

Level 6: Flaps In

The Ultimate Box Game

The Box Game

The Exploratory Box Game

The Box Game

Noise Phobia: tips and tricks for the 4th of July

4th of July dogs
noise phobia
body language
  • Pinned back ears
  • Crouching or hiding
  • Clinginess
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Whale eye (whites of the eyes are showing)
  • Whining or barking
  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Yawning
  • Lip or nose licking
  • Drooling
  • Urinating or defecating
  • Vomiting

  • Double check gates to be sure that they are securely latched BEFORE letting your dog out of the house.
  • If you go for a walk, double leash your dog for safety. You can use a double ended leash like the one in the photo, or just use two leashes. Clip one leash to your dog’s harness and one to the collar. If the dog wriggles out of the harness, you still have one leash attached to his collar. NOTE: Attaching both leashes to two spots on the harness (or to the collar) is not proper double leashing. If the dog wriggles out of the harness, you are simply left holding an empty harness as your dog runs off.
  • Add a second layer of safety and take your dog out in the yard on a leash or long line. Dogs can be unbelievably agile and athletic fence jumpers when they are in a blind panic.
  • Be sure that your doors and windows are secured latched. A window screen is not going to hold a dog who is panicking and trying to escape.
  • Don’t leave your dog unattended in your yard – scared dogs may run through invisible fences, break tethers, climb or jump fences or dig their way out of yards.
  • Don’t take your noise phobic pup to a fireworks display – leave him safe at home.
  • If you are hosting a party at your home, put your pup in his crate, in a locked room for the evening. There is no reason to chance someone leaving a door open or, worse yet, someone spooking your already frightened dog and getting bit or having your dog run away.
  • White or brown noise machine or app
  • Radio turned to classical, country or reggae music
  • Box fan
  • Bathroom fan
  • Youtube has several tracks with calming music playing in a 8-15 hour loop
noise phobia
noise phobia
noise phobia
  • Try to limit stress in the days leading up to the 4th of July. If your dog is already partially trigger stacked, it will be easier to send him over threshold on the 4th.
  • If you will be giving medication, be sure that you have your dog’s prescription(s) filled and ready to go.
  • Follow the directions to be sure that you are administering any medications or supplements correctly and in a timely fashion. You don’t want to realize 5 minutes before the big fireworks display is set to begin that you should have given your dog his medication 2 hours ago.
  • Fill and freeze your enrichment activities ahead of time.
  • Make sure that your dog’s safe space is set up and ready to use.
  • Take your dog out early in the day for some physical exercise.
  • Double leash your dog anytime you are outside your house or fenced yard. You can use two leashes (or a double-ended leash) and hook one leash to your dog’s harness and the other to his collar. That way, if a he hears an early firework and backs out of one, he is still attached to you by the other.
  • Make sure to take your pup out for a potty break before fireworks begin as he may not want to go out afterwards.
  • For highly fearful dogs who refuse to go outside during the day, you can create a doggie litter box that you can set up in your garage, mudroom or basement.
  • A recording of fireworks (or other scary sound like thunder, loud trucks, etc) with music and one without
  • Plenty of high value treats or high value toy
  • Time, Patience and plenty of Enthusiasm
noise phobia

But My Dog is Still Scared

Aggressive Dog: Reframing Owner Mindset about Aggression

aggressive dog blog

Growling, snapping and snarling are efforts to avoid a conflict, not start one.

~ Dick Russell
  • move the dog to another room with a wonderful chew toy when visitors are expected
  • set up a lock box at the end of your driveway for package delivery
  • condition a muzzle
  • install a second fence so that you have a buffer zone of dog – fence – space – fence – world
  • keep doors locked to prevent an open door policy that puts “intruders” in danger.

TRIGGER WARNING: Dog Bite at 0:10.

LEGS logo aggressive dog aggression
  • safety and management protocols
  • realistic goals
  • reward-based training techniques aimed at addressing the root cause rather than simply suppressing or masking the behavior
  • develop a training plan that is proactive, rather than reactive
  • Aggressive behavior is just behavior. It doesn’t define you or your dog.
  • Your goal is not perfection, rather, strive for less negative, more neutral.
  • Set your dog up for success. Don’t continue into situations where you know he can’t cope.
  • Behavior happens. Aggression happens. All sentient beings have those moments. Our goal is to have a plan in place so that you know what to do.
body language aggressive dog aggression

Trigger Stacking

Trigger Stacking


Trigger Stacking diagram

Scruffy and his owner are out for a morning walk. They come upon a woman pushing a baby stroller – something that is completely new to Scruffy.  As the stroller passes by, Scruffy’s owner notices that Scruffy is yawning and ducking his head away from the stroller.  He can’t possibly be tired ….

barking dog

A few blocks later, a loose dog runs out of his yard and starts barking at Scruffy. Scruffy cowers, moves behind his owner and starts licking his lips. The loose dog’s owner calls him away. Since Scruffy didn’t growl or bark at the loose dog, his owner assumes that it wasn’t a big deal. They continue on their walk.  

Trigger Stacking

After work, the owner decides to take Scruffy out for another walk since he has been cooped up in the house all day.   As they walk past the next door neighbor’s house, their old dog walks up to the fence.  Suddenly, Scruffy explodes – barking and lunging at the dog.  The owner is very upset and yells at Scruffy as he drags him away. “What the heck is wrong with you?! You see that dog every day! You never act like that!”  

ladder of aggression
  • Joey had a veterinary appointment first thing in the morning. He doesn’t really like riding in the car, but since he is a little dog, Jane just lifts him up and pops him into the car.  He sat still and pouted all the way to the vet – never giving Jane any eye contact.
  • At the veterinarian’s office, Joey was faced with all of the sites and strong medicinal scents of the receiving area and crouched down in a corner. When they got to the exam room, Joey hid under a chair. He had his ears back and wouldn’t look at Jane.
  • Joey’s vet was booked, so he saw a new vet and vet tech.  He wouldn’t come out from under the chair, so Jane had to reach in and grab him. Since Joey wouldn’t sit still, the vet tech had to restrain him.
  • After a physical exam during which his teeth, ears and eyes were checked and his temperature was taken, Joey got a couple of vaccinations.  
  • While they were in the office, it had started to rain. As Jane and Joey ran across the parking lot to their car, a big dog in another car barked and surprised them both. 
  • On the way home, Jane stopped off at a store. She had to leave Joey in the car – something he hates. But the weather was nice and cool and she just needed a couple of items, so he would be fine.
  • Joey started barking when Jane got out of the car and she could still hear him as she entered the store. When she came out, she could hear Joey barking as she approached the car. He was SO excited to see her. Silly boy, she was only gone for a few minutes.
  • On the way home, a car pulled out in front of Jane, she had to slam on the brakes. Joey slid off the seat, and then decided to just stay curled up on the floor.
  • When Jane and Joey arrived home, Joey walked through a couple of puddles on the way into the house. When they got inside, Jane set her bags down and grabbed a towel. She leaned over and took Joey’s leash off.
  • When she picked up his front paws to dry them off, Joey gave a bit of a growl and lifted his lip, but he does that sometimes so she kept going. When she grabbed his back leg to start drying his paw, Joey growled, spun around and nipped her arm.
  •  When Scruffy yawned as they passed the baby stroller and licked his lips when facing the loose dog, he was trying to tell his owner that he was uncomfortable with the situation.  Be sure that you know how to recognize even the very subtle signs of stress in your dog. My blog, Dog Body Language:  How to Speak Dog, is a great place to start.  If you would like to take a deeper dive, check out my Canine Body Language for Pet Parents webinar.  Norwegian dog trainer, Turid Rugaas, wrote a fantastic book on the subtleties of canine body language – On Talking Terms with Dogs:  Calming Signals , Lili Chin has a very informative little book called Doggie Language that is filled with graphics and Tricia Hollingshead’s Listen to Me is filled with color photos and fantastic information . . .
  • Mediate the intensity of the situation by controlling duration and distance with respect to your dog’s triggers. If you think that your dog might be getting trigger stacked, you can prevent outbursts by maximizing distance from triggers on your walk, go to a quiet place for a sniffari or even skip the walk and do some trick training, nosework or even a scatter feed in the yard instead.
  • Keep a journal of events that may be triggering to your dog and mediate the intensity of your dog’s encounters with his triggers in order to prevent over-threshold reactions and trigger stacking.
  • Possible triggering events to be aware of:
    • Children
    • People ringing the doorbell
    • Grooming, nail clipping or other types of husbandry
    • A trip to the vet
    • A new object – a stroller, wheelchair, holiday decoration, etc.
    • A new location 
    • A familiar location that has changed – an empty park may be full of people, a change in season or weather has changed a familiar landscape
    • A car ride
    • Other dogs or people when out on a walk
    • A new pet in the home
    • Visitors in the home
    • Losing a member of the household – moves/is out of town; a pet/person passed away
    • A pet sitter or boarding
    • Any change to his normal routine
    • Pain or illness
    • Time of day – light and shadows can effect visibility
    • Loud noises – construction; thunder; fireworks; car backfiring
  • Don’t push your dog’s boundaries until he is ready.  If he is stressed by an event, take extra care with other possible triggers.   Decrease intensity and duration as much as possible and increase distance as much as possible.  There will be better days for reactivity training.  Right now, your priority is self-care for your dog’s mental health.
  • If you and/or your dog are struggling, contact a certified professional dog trainer whose training philosophy is grounded in positive reinforcement to help.

Family Dog Mediation: Understanding your dog’s behavior

Family Dog Mediation family dog mediator
Family Dog Mediation
window film
The use of frosted window film to manage a dog’s environment.
Family Dog Mediation
family dog mediation
family dog mediation
“To love them, we must know them. To know them, we must see them for ALL that they are.” The Dog’s Truth
Family Dog Mediation
Family Dog Mediation logo family dog mediator
Family Dog Mediation meet you dog
LEGS logo Family dog mediation mediator

Dog Body Language: How to Speak Dog

Dog Body Language: How to Speak Dog
Dog Body Language

The truth is … our dogs are speaking and they are begging us to listen to them. In truth, too many of us do not understand the subtle signals that make up dog body language. When we don’t see, or if we choose to ignore, our dogs’ subtle signals, they have no choice but to speak louder through growls, barks, snarls … and even bites.

  • “I get anxious when you restrain me. Please stop hugging me.”
  • “It hurts when you pull on my matted fur. Please stop brushing me.”
  • “Cars are scary. Please stop forcing me to get in.”
  • “My joints hurt. Please stop petting my leg.”
  • “I just want to enjoy my dinner. Please stop sticking your hand in my bowl.”

Never punish your dog for growling.

Dog Body Language - stressed
I’m worried.
  • context matters; and
  • always judge the enitre dog, not just a single body part.
stiff, tense posture
Stiff, tense posture
space bubbles
Dog Body Language neutral tail carriage
Neutral tail carriage
Dog Body Language - floppy ears - neutral
Floppy ears – neutral



  • wide and round eyes
  • dilated pupils (the black circle in the middle of the eye is enlarged)
  • whale eye (an arc of white showing around the edges of the eyes)
  • hard” eyes (more of a hard, focused stare).
  • squinting – used to avoid eye contact
eyes - dilated pupils
Eyes – dilated pupils
  • A. Open relaxed mouth, neutral ears, soft eyes, whiskers directed forward. This dog is exhibiting relaxed body language.
  • B. Stiff posture, body directed forward, closed mouth with lips set in a straight line, whiskers directed forward, ears set back and down, hard eyes, high tail carriage. This dog is exhibiting stressed body language.
  • A. Relaxed posture, open relaxed mouth, neutral ears, soft eyes. This dog is exhibiting relaxed body language.
  • B. Stiff posture with body directed backward, wide round eyes with whale eye (difficult to see with the blue eyes), furrowed brow, ears pinned down and back, closed mouth with straight lips, whiskers directed forward. This dog is exhibiting stressed body language.
  • C. Loose, relaxed posture, relaxed mouth, neutral ears. This dog is exhibiting relaxed body language.
  • D. Stiff posture, closed mouth with straight lips, airplane ears, head turned away, whiskers directed forward. This dog is exhibiting stressed body language.
  • E. Crouched posture, body directed away from the person, wide round eyes with whale eye, prominent whisker bed, closed mouth with straight lips, furrowed brow, ears pinned back;. This puppy is exhibiting stressed body language.
  • F. Stiff posture with body directed away from person, yawning, squinting eyes. This dog is exhibiting stressed body language.
Dog Body Language - stressed
I’m worried.

77% of dog bites happen with a family or friend's dog. Now that you know better, do better.

  • Doggie Language by Lili Chin
  • Kitty Language by Lili Chin
  • Listen to Me! Exploring the Emotional Life of Dogs by Tricia Hollingshead
  • On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas
  • Why Don’t You Listen to Me? by Hannah Capon
  • Dogs inTranslation: A unique journey of observation and interpretation
    by Katja Krauss and Gabi Maue
  • Canine Body Language: A Photographic Guide by Brenda Aloff
  • A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog!:  A fun, interactive educational resource to help the whole family understand canine communication by Niki Tudge
  • Family Paws
  • The Family Dog

Sniff Walk: What Your Dog Really Wants

The walk that your dog is hoping for.
  1. Are there ordinances in your area about off leash dogs?  If so, make sure that you are going to off-leash friendly areas.  Don’t be the dog owner that lets your dog off leash in on-leash only locations.  
  2. Make sure that your dog has a bomb-proof recall before letting your dog off leash in an un-enclosed space.  Nothing good is going to come from this.
  3. Be aware and respectful of others.  Keep this in mind and prevent your dog from harassing others (remember that bomb-proof recall in #2). Not every dog wants to be your dog’s friend and not every person is comfortable around dogs … and they have the right to enjoy that space without being harassed by an off-leash dog.  
  • Long line.  A long line is just a extra long leash that comes in lengths anywhere from 10 to 100 feet. They are great for training recalls, but make the perfect sniff walk leash. You can purchase a long line or simply make your own. Tie a clip to one end of a length of rope to hook to your dog’s harness. Then tie a loop at the other end for a handle.
  • Harness.  A harness is much safer than a collar for any walk.  Look for a harness that allows full range of motion.  For example, no-pull harnesses with a band across the chest restrict shoulder movement.
  • Hands free leash system (optional). A hands-free belt to attach your long line to works great to free up your hands. Now you can dispense treats or handle the line to keep it from getting tangled.
  • Leash belay system. Grish Stewart has created an excellent leash belay system to help you easily control a strong dog. Links to the equipment necessary can be found on my Equipment and Supplies page.
  • Treat pouch with treats or kibble.  If your dog has never been on a sniff walk, you may need to toss a few treats into the grass/bushes to encourage him and let him know that it is okay to sniff. Instead of treats, toss the food bowl and take your dog’s meal along to scatter feed in the grass.
  • Poop bags. Be sure to clean up after your dog.
  • Do not allow your dog to damage/destroy private or public property – including digging, crushing plants, etc.
  1. First, set Google Maps or Mapquest to ‘satellite’ mode and type your home address into the search box.
  2. Next, look for green spaces within easy walking or driving distance. Yes, you may need to drive a bit to find a good location.  
  3. Once you have located some potential spaces, check each one to determine if it will fit your needs.  On the map below, I have marked potential green spaces in my area.  
  4. Check land ownership and local ordinances.
    • The red zones on the map are great spaces, but, sadly, off limits to dogs.  Check your local ordinances for parks and cemeteries. If dog friendly, these make great sniff zones. 
    • The purple and blue zones are all dog-friendly possibilities.  The two largest purple zones are filled with fantastic nature trails.  However, if you have reactive dogs, check out those trails without your dogs first as nature trails are often narrow with few opportunities to allow enough space for other dogs to pass by without triggering reactions.  Since the point of a sniff walk is to allow your dog to decompress, these areas are not good options for reactive dogs. Be sure to keep these kind of things in mind when searching for sniff walk spaces.
    •  The little rectangle towards the top of the map is a tiny dog park.  On occasion, I have been able to get this space all to myself, but it not always open and is quite small.
  5. So, that leaves the blue zone.
  • Dog friendly (safe and allows dogs)
  • Easy walk from home (or easily accessible by car)
  • Plenty of green space and interesting textures, surfaces and smells to explore
  • Plenty of space to allow my dogs to get the distance they need from triggers
  • Tons of great places to sniff
  • Cemeteries
  • School campuses
  • Parks and playgrounds
  • SniffSpot
  • Office parking lots or industrial parks
  • Beaches and waterfronts
  • Quiet neighborhoods
  • Empty dog parks
  • Nature center
  • Visitor center or rest area
  • Picnic area or campground
  • Paths and trails (beware of narrow trails)
  • Golf courses
  • Private lands
  • Farms
  • Church grounds
Sniff Walk Adventures
Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s off for a sniff walk we go!
Sniff Walk Adventures
I think there is a bunny in here!
Sniff Walk Adventures
I’m sure it’s back in here somewhere!
Sniff Walk Adventures
Watching the World Go By.

Dog Training Manuals That You Can Trust

Dog Training Manuals That You Can Trust

Don't shoot the dog

Plenty in life is free

cooperative care

Doggie language

On talking terms with dogs

Listen to me

puppy socialization

easy peasy puppy squeeze

how to raise a puppy

Dog Training Manuals That You Can Trust meet your dog

canine enrichment for the real world

canine enrichment

bones would rain from the sky

the other end of the leash

human canine behavior connections

Dog Training Manuals That You Can Trust Wag

Dog Training Manuals That You Can Trust Mine!

  • Barking:  The Sound of a Language by Turid Rugaas
  • How Dogs Learn by Mary R. Burch and Bob Bailey
  • How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves by Sophia Yin
  • Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know by Alexandra Horowitz
  • My Dog Pulls. What Do I Do? by Turid Rugaas
  • The Power of Positive Dog Training by Pat Miller
  • The Cautious Canine:  How to Help Dogs Conquer their Fears by Patricia McConnell
  • The Puppy Whisperer: A Compassionate, Nonviolent Guide to Early Training and Care by Paul Owens and Terence Cranendonk
  • The Puppy Primer by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D.
  • A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog!: A fun, interactive, educational resource to help the whole family understand canine communication by Niki Tudge
  • Feeling Outnumbered?:  How to Manage and Enjoy your Multi-Dog Household by Karen B. London, Ph.D.
  • Feisty Fido:  Help for the Leash Aggressive Dog by Patricia McConnell
  • Be Right Back!: How To Overcome Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety And Regain Your Freedom by Julie Naismith
  • I’ll Be Right Back:  How to Prevent and Treat Separation Anxiety by Patricia McConnell
  • The Midnight Dog Walkers:  Positive Training and Practical Advice for Living with Reactive and Aggressive Dogs by Annie Phenix
  • Control Unleashed books by Leslie McDevitt

Dog Training Manuals That You Can Trust