A service dog is any canine that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks which benefit an individual with a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Tasks performed by service dogs often include things like pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items, alerting a person to a sound, reminding a person to take medication, or pressing an elevator button, among others.Service dogs are trained on an individual basis to perform tasks that assist their handlers with disabilities and hence, there are many different types of service dogs, classified by the types of tasks the dogs perform. The dogs’ trained tasks are dependent on the needs of the animal’s handler’s limitations and abilities.
Types of Service Dogs
- Guide Dogs
- Hearing Alert Dogs / Signal Dogs
- Psychiatric Service Dogs
- PTSD Service Dogs
- Seizure Alert Dogs
- Diabetes Alert Dogs
- Migraine Alert Dogs
- Narcolepsy Alert Dogs
- Autism Service Dogs
Guide Dogs or Mobility Dogs
Guide Dogs (also called mobility dogs), are service dogs that are trained to retrieve items, push buttons, or open doors for their handlers. These service dogs might help people with disabilities with balance, transferring from one place to another, or walking, among other tasks.e guide dog is a “mobility aid” that can enable people who are blind or have low vision to travel safely. Guide dogs can guide people around obstacles and through crowds, stop at curbs and stairs, and sometimes even be trained to find a limited number of objects that are within sight when given orders such as “Find the chair,” “Find the door,” or “Find the elevator.” The guide dog user can also train (or “pattern”) the dog to find frequently used landmarks, such as a bus stop pole or a mailbox.
Hearing Alert Dogs
A Hearing Alert Dog is a service dog that is trained to alert its hearing-impaired handler to sounds, which he or she cannot hear. Hearing Dogs are trained to alert people to household sounds that are necessary for everyday safety and independence. They are trained to make physical contact and lead their person to the source of the sound. Through sound awareness and companionship, these dogs provide greatly increased freedom. Hearing Alert Dogs can be trained to alert their handlers to sounds such as doorbells, oven alarms, fire alarms, and other sounds that require immediate attention.
Psychiatric Service Dogs
A psychiatric service dog is a specific type of service dog trained to assist their handler with a psychiatric disability, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. A psychiatric service dog is individually trained to do work or perform tasks that mitigate their handler’s disability. Training to mitigate a psychiatric disability may include providing environmental assessment (in such cases as paranoia or hallucinations), signaling behaviors (such as interrupting repetitive or injurious behaviors), reminding the handler to take medication, retrieving objects, guiding the handler from stressful situations, or acting as a brace if the handler becomes dizzy. Moreover, the dog can be an extremely useful companion in any controlled training concerning cognitive functions, as “walking the dog” for instance, which simultaneously offers any person several situations or encounters where cognition activates.
PTSD Service Dogs
A PTSD service dog helps combat the daily symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. Service dogs are trained to pick up stress signals and intervene with the owner to shift the focus back to a positive environment. A companion offers those suffering from PTSD a new outlook on life and sets up responsibilities that make daily activities easier to accomplish.
Seizure Alert Dogs
Seizure Alert Dogs are sometimes referred to as, ‘Medical Alert Dogs” or “Seizure Response Dogs”. In the event a handler has a seizure, these working canines and are trained to respond to their handler’s state by either retrieving assistance, or remaining by the person’s side until help comes. Some seizure alert dogs can even alert their handlers to oncoming seizures.
Diabetes Alert Dogs
There are two different levels of service dogs for people with diabetes, medical response dogs and diabetic alert dogs.Medical response dogs for diabetes are trained to respond to signs that an owner may be experiencing low blood sugar levels, once they have become symptomatic. A diabetic alert dog, on the other hand, is trained to recognize changes in a person’s blood chemistry, which often allows the dog to alert the person or the caregivers to take action. Dogs are trained to react in different ways to an owner who is having a high or low blood sugar episode. Some examples are, holding a particular toy in their mouth as a signal, jumping on the owner, or touching the owner with the its nose.
Migraine Alert Dogs
For migraine sufferers, early warning signs are a godsend that often enable them to sidestep the pain through early medication. Everyone with migraine eventually learns their own patterns and triggers, how to adapt their behavior to avoid known triggers, and what to do when presented with recognizable warning signs. Migraine alert dogs are just such an early warning system. Much like seizure alert dogs, seeing eye dogs or hearing dogs, these special animals are trained to recognize changes in their owner’s physical or psychological behaviors that signal migraine onset. They do this by picking up on the prodrome phase of an attack, which is the very start of the complex migraine cycle
Narcolepsy Alert Dogs
Narcolepsy is a brain disorder that affects the ability to control sleep-wake cycles. This can mean a person suddenly falls asleep, even in the middle of a task. It’s a dangerous condition, as someone who has an attack could be injured falling to the ground or could have a car accident if it happens while driving. Service dogs help people with narcolepsy by performing several different types of tasks. They can stand over the person’s lap when an attack comes on, which prevents them from sliding out of a chair onto the floor; they can also stand over the person to protect them if they are out in public, or they can go get help. And most importantly, they can provide a warning up to 5 minutes before an attack comes on, giving their handler a chance to get to a safe place or a safe position.
Autism Service Dogs
An autism service dog is a service dog trained to assist an autistic person to help them gain independence and the ability to perform activities of daily living similar to anyone else. For the most part, these dogs are trained to perform tasks similar to those of service dogs for other sensory processing disorders. Many autism service dogs are trained in guide work/obstacle avoidance (similar to a guide dog) to help the handler with visual stimuli, find specific locations to help with navigation, signal to sounds, and provide targeted deep pressure therapy.
Service Dogs- Service Dog Vests
Under ADA regulations, service animals are not required to wear a vest, ID tag, or specific harness to be identified as service animals. Having said that, many people put a vest or identification tag on their service dog to avoid the confrontation from business owners’ questioning. At the same time, it makes it clear for other people that their service dog is currently on duty and cannot be distracted. By having a bright vest with labels “Service Dog” and “Do Not Pet”, you will have an easier time fending off strangers who want to come over to pet your service dog and distract it from performing its duty.
Service Dogs- Final Thoughts
Although there exists no shortage of websites that sell official-looking ID cards and vests for “service dogs”, therapy dogs and emotional support animals, registering or certifying an animal on such a site provides the handler with no discernible value. As an owner/handler of a service dog, you are not legally required to register or certify your animal as a service dog and there is no official Service Dog registry in the United States.
In order to determine whether an animal is a bona fide service dog, the U.S. Department of Justice allows businesses to ask the following two questions:
- Is this a service dog required because of disability?
- What is it trained to do to mitigate the disability?
In order to qualify as a “service animal” under federal law, the dog must be trained to perform specific tasks which assist an individual with his or her disability.