Service Dog Registration Of America

The Various Types Of Service Dogs And What They Do

2014-11-26

Canines are some of the most amazing creatures on the planet. Not only are they extremely smart, but they're empathetic and compassionate. These creatures will do anything to help their owners once they've forged a bond.

Because of these qualities, dogs can be trained to perform incredible feats on behalf of their owners. Canines that have undergone training to complete specific tasks for people provide service and work as guide dogs or support dogs.

Different types of service dogs are trained to help owners with different daily tasks that they cannot perform due to a physical or mental health issue. If you or someone you love is a person with disabilities, a service dog can help improve your quality of life.

People with Disabilities

The phrase “people with disabilities” does not refer only to those with a vision or hearing impairment. It can also include people with psychological conditions, such as autism; mobility issues; and seizures.

Those with spinal cord injuries, M.S., Crohn's, or other conditions may also benefit from having a service dog by their side. Dogs' mobility assistance and dogs' seizure response skills can mean the difference between life and death for their owners.

What Do Service Dogs Do?

Every single day, service animals have a significant impact on the lives of their human partners. These dogs provide help to those with disabilities, empowering them to live with fewer restrictions. They reduce their owners' reliance on other people while increasing independence and self-confidence. These canines also provide unwavering emotional support and unconditional love.

Unlike emotional support animals and some therapy dogs, service animals receive training from skilled professionals. When you're dealing with an owner who is hard of hearing or has a condition like muscular dystrophy, there's no room for error. A single incorrectly performed task can mean the difference between safety and danger for people with disabilities.

For this reason, service dogs are trained to navigate different social settings without getting distracted. They undergo personal space training and run through tests in public spaces. Many specially trained canines will react to car alarms, doorbells, smoke alarms, and alarm clocks. An alert dog is always a good dog.

Other types, like psychiatric service dogs and seizure alert dogs, can provide physical and emotional support to their owners with disabilities.

What Types of Service Dogs Are There?

Service animals are more than guide dogs for the blind. There are many types, from working dogs to those that take on the role of guide dog for the hearing impaired, service animals trained to assist those with mobility issues, and more.

Children with emotional and psychological trauma and veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) all stand to benefit from having a service dog by their side.

Each type of service dog goes through training to become an expert in its field. That's so their owners benefit from constant support. From mobility assistance dogs to allergy detection dogs, here are 10 of the most common types of service canines:

1. Guide Dogs

Blind and visually impaired people benefit from the assistance of guide dogs. Moving around may have been difficult before, but with a service dog by their side, those with disabilities can now maneuver their way easily around obstacles and negotiate traffic.

Specially trained to help their owners navigate public spaces, these canines complete specific tasks that are impossible or much more difficult without assistance.

2. Hearing Dogs

Hearing dogs guide deaf and hard-of-hearing people by alerting them to sounds in the house, such as an oven beeping, the door knocking, a telephone ringing, and more.

Hearing dogs are one of the types of support dogs that require a special harness. Their owners hold on to the harness and rely on them as guide dogs. Golden retrievers, which have renowned senses of hearing, are one of the go-to dog breeds to help hearing and visually impaired people.

3. Seizure Response Dogs

Also called seizure alert dogs, these canines help people with seizure disorders such as epilepsy. Seizure Response Dogs help by alerting another person when their partner has a seizure or breaking the person's fall at the onset of a seizure.

These dogs are trained to set off an alarm when their owner goes into a seizure. They also help their owners feel comfortable stepping out into the world, where it's not always safe to seize up and be unconscious for minutes at a time.

4. Autism Service Dogs

Autism is a complicated psychiatric condition. Fortunately, dogs' psychiatric assistance skills are top-notch. Autism Service dogs are specially trained to assist people at all points on the spectrum.

Whether individuals need assistance dogs trained for certain tasks or help overcome their outdoor mobility issues, Autism Service Dogs provide that help.

People with autism can get sensory overload. An autism service animal helps the owner deal with this overload by providing a focal point and emotional support.

5. Mobility Assistance Dogs

This type of assistance dog helps people in wheelchairs become more independent. A guide dog trained to perform mobility-restricted duties will possess various skills, such as opening doors, retrieving dropped items, and even helping pay at a cash register when shopping.

There are also Mobility Assistance Dogs trained to offer support and balance. They assist people with mobility impairments, such as paralysis, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, arthritis, and more.

This type of support dog needs special training, as most canines have a natural inclination to become distracted and energetic in social settings. This type of dog will undergo rigorous attention focusing, trained to alert its owners to the smallest obstacles in their path.

6. Medical Service Canines

Apart from assisting with mobility issues, some service animals trained to perform physical tasks offer medical services. These animals can help alert their owners to the beginnings of a seizure, insulin spiking and dropping, and other such medical issues.

Typically, this type of dog differs from a hearing dog or epilepsy dog, though both hearing impairment and epilepsy are medical conditions. Instead, anyone who depends on medication or requires regular medical attention may adopt this kind of dog.

A medical service dog can remind you of upcoming doses, alert medical providers to lapses in medication intake, and more.

7. Psychiatric Service Dogs

People with schizophrenia, multiple personality disorder, depression, clinical anxiety, and other mental health conditions all benefit from having Psychiatric Service Dogs by their sides.

These animals are a shining light in confusing darkness.

8. Allergy Detection Dogs

These assistance dogs are trained to alert their human partner when they pick up the scent of a specific allergen. This action will prevent the person's exposure to the allergy agent, which can be a life-saving act.

Allergy detection dogs undergo intense training so that they can recognize scents even amidst the most overwhelming circumstances.

9. Therapy Dogs

Though there is some crossover here with emotional support animals, therapy animals are highly-trained, doctor-recommended working dogs.

Unlike many other types of service animals on this list, therapy dogs help with emotional and psychological conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, not just their physical conditions.

10. Diabetic Alert Dogs

For people with diabetes, a change in blood sugar levels can happen quickly and lead to a very dangerous situation. Diabetic alert dogs are often critical for people with diabetes to help equalize those blood sugar highs and lows.

They are specifically trained to detect chemical changes in blood sugar levels through their sense of smell. They can alert their owners when they need to use sweets to boost their glucose levels or take insulin.

Service Dogs vs. Emotional Support Animals

There are three primary differences between animals used for service vs. emotional support:

  • While service animals need professional training to obtain a license, the owners of emotional support animals only need a doctor's letter.
  • Service animals are always and only canines. Emotional support animals can be virtually any kind of animal that is legal to keep, from a parakeet to a guinea pig, or even a peacock.
  • Service animals focus on physical and sometimes psychological impairments. Generally, emotional support animals provide just that—emotional support.

Can Any Dog Qualify for Service Dog Training?

A good service dog is alert but not too energetic. It is loyal but not too narrowly focused. It can see, hear, and smell everything but remain entirely focused on its owner. 

This type of dog will undergo demanding training so that it can assist people with disabilities efficiently. But not all canines can qualify to perform this important service.

Labradors and Golden Retrievers are the most common types of service canines. The size and disposition make them ideal candidates for service dog training. Other breeds, such as German Shepherds, may receive specialized training to help people with mobility or balance limitations, providing a better quality of life.

The canine does not have to be purebred. Indeed, many service animals come from animal shelters. Mixed breed adoptees can become wonderful hearing dogs. 

These animals undergo a long process of selection, training, and finally matching to guarantee that they meet the exact needs of their human partners.

Man's Best Friend

There's a reason canines are "man's best friend." Once a dog attaches to you, it will protect you against any harm. These beautiful creatures have been known to throw themselves in front of oncoming cars and even bullets to protect their owners.

With the proper training and a lot of love, a dog can change the lives of people with disabilities for the better. Do your research and see how a service dog can help you today.