Service dogs help their owners in more ways than most people know. Discover 8 different types of service dogs and the surprising ways they help others now.
Man and dog have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship for eons. Archaeological evidence suggests that dogs have been man’s best friend for at least 14,000 years, but experts think it’s at least twice as long as that.
Throughout the centuries dogs have hunted and fought by our sides. In modern times they play an important role as the first defense for our homes and as companions. Not all 21st-century dogs are pets though, service dogs play an indispensable role in their owners’ daily lives.
Thanks to the infinite trainability of dogs, it’s possible to get a service dog for almost any disability nowadays. These are the top eight types of service dogs and what they can do for you.
- Guide Dogs
The original role of service dogs was to act as the eyes of visually-impaired people. Seeing-eye dogs, as they’re often called, can go anywhere that their handlers go.
That means they are specially trained to deal with a huge range of situations. Guide dogs must be able to cope with crowds and traveling on public transport and must be impervious to distractions.
However, the best guide dogs are also trained to be selectively disobedient. They will not obey a command if they perceive it to place their handler at risk.
Because of their high intelligence, even temperaments, and size, you’ll often see labradors, golden retrievers or German shepherds fulfilling this role.
- Hearing Dogs
Dogs can hear better than humans any day of the week, so it makes sense that they can assist people who are hard of hearing or deaf.
Hearing dogs alert their owners about important sounds such as fire alarms and approaching traffic as well as day to day things. A hearing dog will alert their owner to a knock at the door, their morning alarm, or a crying baby by taking their owner’s hand and leading them to the source of the noise.
Since almost physical strength and size are not necessary for this job, almost any breed suits the purpose. In this way, many a lucky shelter dog has found their calling in life when trained for this role.
- Diabetic Alert Dogs
Apart from great hearing, dogs have an incredible sense of smell. Not only does this come in handy for detecting drugs and tracking missing people, but it can also help diabetics to stay safe.
Dogs can detect the minute scent change that occurs when diabetic people are about to have a hyper- or hypoglycemic event. Diabetic alert dogs learn to give their human companions a signal as soon as they detect abnormal sugar levels.
As a back up they’re also trained to sound an alarm and alert anyone nearby if their human does end up in trouble.
- Mobility Assistance Dogs
Dogs might lack opposable thumbs, but they’re perfectly capable of lending a hand with their paws and noses when needed.
Mobility assistance dogs literally serve as the right hand to people with an impaired range of motions, especially those who are wheelchair-bound.
They can help to hold doors open, pull wheelchairs up ramps, and press elevator buttons if needed. These kind of tasks are relatively easy for dogs to learn but they’re a huge help for those who can’t do these things that we all take for granted.
People with arthritis, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy or spinal cord injuries can also benefit from having a mobility assistance dog handy.
- Psychiatric Service Dogs
It’s not only the physically impaired who can benefit from service dogs, but they can be of great use to those suffering mental distress too. Psychiatric service dogs usually serve as a support system for people suffering from severe anxiety issues and post-traumatic stress disorder.
These highly trained canines help their hyper-vigilant handlers to feel more at ease by performing a number of useful tasks. A service dog for anxiety protects their woman’s personal space by creating a barrier between them and the outside world. In this way, they increase their handler’s safe zone.
They also perform small, seemingly unimportant tasks like switching on the lights before their owner enters a room, to help them feel more at ease.
It can be difficult for people with anxiety or PTSD to get out and about. When they have a dog to walk, they have no choice and can feel safer and more comfortable with this simple activity.
- Types of Service Dogs Trained to Deal with Seizures
Seizure alert dogs and seizure response dogs are two different animals. While seizure response dogs are widely accepted and trained to perform a wide range of useful, life-saving tasks if their handler has an epileptic seizure.
They will bark for help or press an alarm during the seizure and can also help the handler to come around afterward. If possible, these dogs can guide the person away from danger during a seizure and will bring them a phone or medicine when the seizure ends.
Seizure alert dogs are a contentious issue. Some people swear by them, and a few dogs do seem to have an uncanny way of detecting an approaching seizure. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this notion.
- Autism Support Dogs
These kind of service dogs are usually the constant companion for children with autism. They provide consistency and comfort in their young handlers’ lives and can help them through challenging social situations.
The dog acts as an ice breaker in stressful social situations, encouraging other children to interact with their handler. They are also adept at keeping an eye on these youngsters, interrupting harmful behavior and alerting the child’s parents to dangerous situations.
- Allergy Detection Dogs
It’s challenging enough for adults with food allergies to stay away from temptation, for children it’s near impossible.
A trained allergy detection dog can smell relevant allergens from a mile away and ensure that their young charge steers clear of any harmful substances. In this way, they help to prevent young children from inadvertently getting into life-threatening situations.
They usually accompany their handler to school and social events. This removes a load of worry and responsibility from the parents’ shoulders and gives little ones more independence.
Find Out More
The American Disabled Association has strict rules regarding the different types of service dogs and their training. It’s important for these dogs to be functional in public situations both on and off the lead, for everyone’s safety.
For more information about the wonderful world of dogs, keep reading other articles right here on our blog.