In several of my previous columns, I have covered the lengths that some people will go to in order to get your money, from exaggerating the truth to flat-out lying about their credentials and abilities. As sickening and immoral as it is, this is starting to become an overwhelming trend in the world of assistance/service dogs. There are companies popping up for every type of assistance dog; from the hearing and seeing-eye dogs, mobility-assistant dogs, and seizure-alert dogs to the newer allergen-alert dogs, PTSD dogs, etc.
For example, my wife came across a blind woman with a seeing-eye dog in a grocery store. As Bianca was passing them, the dog was straining to get to her (big no-no!), nearly pulling the woman off of her feet. The dog continued this behavior with any other customers that came close by.
Bianca was approached by some of the store staff members, who knew that she was a dog trainer, and asked if this was appropriate for a seeing-eye dog. They also said that, as this woman and her dog were regulars at this grocery store, they had simply begun to following the pair throughout the store with baggies and a mop/bucket, because the dog would defecate and urinate all over the store, every time it was there. Bianca politely approached the woman to explain that her dog was defecating and urinating all over the store. The woman appeared to be shocked by this and then claimed that she had purchased the dog from “some guy” for $10,000, who stated that it was a fully trained seeing-eye dog.
When Bianca asked if she could contact this “guy” to notify him of these problems and receive some follow-up training, the woman said had not been able to get hold of him since they had merely exchanged the dog and money. There were other details that threw up red flags, but you get the idea: Even the disabled are being targeted by scam artists.
Here are a few things to be aware of:
Contact information: Any reputable business will have a contact name, number, and/or an email address that you can use. You should not have to fill out a form, giving some stranger your personal information, before being able to communicate with the organization.
Check with the Better Business Bureau: Complaints can be filed with the BBB against any company, whether they are members or not. You might be surprised as to what you find out!
Get information about the owners and trainers: As with any dog-training company, you need to find out if they are legitimate, or are all hype. For example, we found several companies claiming to have “master trainers” or trainers with “decades of experience.” Wow, does that sound impressive!
Unfortunately, there are two huge problems with that statement. The first is that there is no such thing as a “master trainer.” It is simply a title that someone decided to assign himself, and it has now become a commonplace term that you can find on many training organization web pages to make themselves sound more impressive. Second, if the trainers are so very experienced, the company should not only provide the trainer’s names and CV/résumé for you to verify, but they should be proud to do so. If you are not provided with this extremely important information, walk away.
If you are provided with “some” information with a trainer’s name, do your homework and verify the credentials and the current employment location of this trainer (linkedin is a great tool for finding this information). That is the great benefit to having the World Wide Web at your fingertips.
Simply put, before you make the commitment to spend thousands, and often tens of thousands of dollars, look at multiple companies that provide this same service. What is the average price among these companies for such a dog? There are also many, many web boards dedicated to acquiring dogs trained for these specific tasks. Call these companies and ask questions. Don’t get so excited by the prospect of having a dog that will assist you that you commit to the first company that you hear about.
Jim Beinlich and his wife Bianca own Cool K9’s Dog Training in Colorado Springs. Find them at www.coolk9s.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/coolk9s.