Dogs are incredible beings, there’s no doubt about that. They love us unconditionally, and provide unmatched loyalty without question. From family pets to service dogs, there’s literally nothing they won’t do. And when it comes to service dogs, in particular, there’s a whole host of responsibilities they’re ready and willing to perform at a moment’s notice.
Raised and trained to support their human companions in a multitude of tasks, service dogs stick by their owners’ sides day in and day out, each type with an important job to do. So, can you guess exactly what’s asked of every kind of service dog there is?
1. Psychiatric service dogs
Not to be confused with emotional support animals, which we’ll get to next, psychiatric service dogs fall under a different umbrella of rules, regulations, and responsibilities. More specifically, “Psychiatric Service Dogs are therefore used by individuals whose mental impairment is so severe that it affects their ability to perform everyday tasks,” Service Dog Certifications explains.
The website goes on to describe what an example of this would be. For instance, if a mentally disabled person has a tendency to wander off, he or she may greatly benefit from having a psychiatric service dog that would help prevent or assist in such situations.
Next: Let’s find out how emotional support dogs are different that these guys.
2. Emotional support dogs
You’ve probably heard this term used much more frequently than the last, and there’s a reason for that. While it may seem that these dogs serve in similar capacities, there are some major differences that are clear to see once you dig a little deeper under the surface.
As opposed to psychiatric service dogs, emotional support animals don’t assist their companions with everyday tasks. Rather they provide emotional comfort in an effort to improve upon a person’s mental symptoms. Furthermore, emotional support dogs aren’t allowed to accompany their humans wherever they go, while psychiatric service dogs are.
Next: There’s one more term to add to the confusion of emotional support.
3. Therapy dogs
Adding yet another confusing term to the cluster, therapy dogs also have an important distinction from the previous two. Canine Journal gives a straightforward explanation of each, and says this about therapy dogs: “A therapy dog is trained to provide comfort and affection to people in hospice, disaster areas, retirement homes, hospitals, nursing homes, schools and more.”
If you and your dog are interested in being a team, check out Alliance of Therapy Dogs to get started.
Next: This next role may be the most well-known.
4. Guide dogs for the blind
As one of the best-known roles of a support canine, guide dogs are the quintessential staple in the service dog arena. We see them out on the streets, in malls, and at the airport, loyally keeping to their companion’s side. Never flinching, these dogs make it possible for visually-impaired people to get around with ease.
The Seeing Eye is one such organization dedicated to the cause. In an effort to support the organization’s mission, The Seeing Eye breeds and raises puppies, trains dogs to serve as guides for blind people, and teaches people how to properly handle and care for the dogs.
Next: Dogs don’t just help those with poor vision.
5. Hearing dogs
Much like guide dogs for the blind, hearing dogs are trained to alert their human companions to any out-of-the-ordinary noise. For instance, if a sound inside of a person’s home should need investigating, the hearing assistance dog will alert their deaf or hard-of-hearing owner. Additionally, when these guide dogs are out in public, they are trained to communicate sounds — such as car horns and police sirens — through their specific reactions.
Next: Dogs can also help people who have a tough time getting around.
6. Mobility assistance dogs
These pups have a lot of responsibilities. They assist their humans with everything from hitting the button on automatic doors to fetching dropped items and retrieving hard-to-reach objects. Because this type of service dog can be placed with individuals with a wide range of needs, they fill many different roles.
Next: Let’s find out what kind of help mobility service dogs provide, in particular.
7. Wheelchair assistance/stability dogs
In addition to the tasks previously mentioned, mobility assistance dogs also serve as wheelchair assistance dogs. According to Service Dogs for America, these pups can help pull an individual’s wheelchair up a ramp, along with serving as a brace for someone suffering from balance and strength issues, even if they’re not bound to a wheelchair.
“With a properly retrofitted home, a mobility assistance dog can tug open doors, close them again, turn lights on and off, and summon help by finding another person in the house,” Service Dogs for America writes. “In public, the mobility assistance dog is an invaluable helper, quietly serving its partner with tasks that would be difficult or impossible to do on their own.”
Next: These service dogs can be heroes for someone with a dangerous disorder.
8. Seizure alert/response dogs
An individual who suffers from seizures is at serious risk of injury. Seizure alert and response dogs help to reduce and prevent the risks associated with a seizure disorder. And these furry service providers are real life heroes. In fact, they’re trained to alert others when, or even before, a seizure occurs.
According to the Epilepsy Foundation, some dogs are trained to lie next to their companion when they’re having a seizure in order to prevent injury, while others are trained to use their bodies to break a fall just before a person goes into an episode. Furthermore, these dogs can be trained to activate a pre-programmed device that alerts others, including a medical professional, of an event.
Next: These dogs are mostly paired with children.
9. Autism assistance dogs
As one of the fastest growing developmental disorders in the U.S., autism is affecting more and more families each year. And while there’s currently no cure, there are ways to improve an individual’s quality of life. One of these ways is by welcoming a dog into your home.
According to 4 Paws for Ability, autism assistance dogs are specifically trained to assist a person with the disorder. In fact, the dogs can help with behavior disruption, preventing a child from wandering off, and helping to ease potential meltdowns autistic children often experience.
Next: This lesser-known disorder is similar to autism.
10. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) assistance dogs
Although you’d think that everyone in today’s world knows just how damaging consuming drugs or alcohol during pregnancy can be, there are still far too many infants being born with serious birth defects because of it. According to 4 Paws for Ability, the prevalence of FASD is “equal to or greater than autism; In the United States, nearly one out of every hundred live births is affected by prenatal alcohol exposure.”
Because the symptoms of FASD typically resemble those of autism, FASD assistance dogs undergo a similar training process, providing the same kind of assistance to those with FASD as those with autism.
Next: Would you believe that diabetics can have a need for service dogs, too?
11. Diabetic alert dogs
Dogs have powerful noses, so it’s no surprise that they’re able to sniff out some pretty incredible scents — scents that we humans would never be able to pick up on. The odor that a diabetic gives off when his blood sugar levels are either too low or too high is one of those scents.
When a diabetic alert dog picks up on this unique odor, he’s able to notify his human companion that he needs to take action in order to return his blood sugar levels to where they need to be. Pretty amazing stuff, right?
Next: Can you guess the other kind of service dog who uses his expert nose-sniffing capabilities to keep his companion safe?
12. Allergy detection service dogs
While all dogs’ noses are far more adept at sniffing out certain scents and odors than human noses, there’s one type of service dog whose nose has been trained to suss out specific ingredients. These dogs are known as allergy detection service dogs, and their craft can help in staving off allergic reactions.
For those who have to deal with severe allergies, it’s no wonder why they’d want an additional barrier of protection from life-threatening allergens. A kid who’s been dealt a handful of serious peanut allergies, for instance, could really benefit from having one of these pups on the lookout.
Next: These dogs deserve an honorable mention.
13. Search and rescue dogs
While these pups don’t technically fall under the service dog category, they’re more than deserving of an honorable mention here. A search and rescue dog is trained to locate and help an injured person in the event of an emergency. They work with police enforcement, TSA, and even ski patrol organizations to ensure an all-hands-on-deck operation when searching for a missing person.
Next: Are service dogs allowed absolutely anywhere? Let’s find out.
14. Rights of service dogs in public places
Generally speaking, service dogs are allowed anywhere their handler goes. However, the ADA has a long list of rules and regulations based on a dog’s certification and the purpose he’s serving his human companion, so it’s imperative you do your research and know the laws.
For instance, there are some important distinctions to be aware of, like the one between psychiatric service dog and emotional support animal. The former is allowed anywhere, while the latter doesn’t have the same sort of access under the ADA.
Next: There are lots of great breeds out there.
15. Best breeds for service dogs
There’s no right or wrong answer for this one. The type of breed that will best suit your needs all depends on what those needs actually are. If you’re looking for a Seeing Eye dog, those pups are typically labs, retrievers, or German shepherds.
If you’re on the hunt for a therapy dog, however, it can be anything from a French bulldog to a miniature poodle. And just remember, if you’re looking for a service dog, there are tons of organizations out there to assist you with the process.