Many dog lovers would say they couldn't live without their canine companions by their side. However, for a growing number of individuals with specific neurological, physical, or mental health needs, the support of a service dog is so much more than a cuddly companion.
In 2022, there are now over 500,000 service dogs just in the United States, with that number growing ten-fold internationally. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service dog is defined as a dog that provides assistance to an individual with a disability. But the tasks they perform are as varied as the people they help. The type of training a service dog receives and the tasks they perform depend on the individual's needs.
Whilst these dependable doggos appear to be cuddly companions that you want to give a pat, it's imperative to remember they are working dogs with a seriously significant job to do. So what are those jobs? Here are nine types of service dogs and the vital roles that they play.
Types of Service Dogs
1. Guide dogs
Guide dogs are one of the most commonly known types of service dogs. These types of service dogs, lead visually impaired and blind people around obstacles in their day-to-day life. The breeds most commonly used are Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Poodles. This type of service dog can usually be noticed by their specifically designed harness with a handle on it to guide their individual.
2. Hearing dogs
A service dog alerts hearing impaired people to sounds like alarms, doorbells, or crying babies. Dogs will specifically touch their humans hand when they hear a sound and lead them toward it. The breeds most commonly used are Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels and Miniature Poodles, selected for their personality and temperament.
3. Mobility assistance dogs
These dogs help people increase their independence and confidence by performing small helpful tasks for their humans. These tasks include bringing objects to people, pressing buttons on automatic doors, serving as a brace for people who are ambulatory or even helping pull a wheelchair up a ramp. How cool is that!
Due to having to sometimes bare the weight of their human partner, larger breeds are more suited to this sort of service dog. However, many different breeds can be mobility assistance dogs depending on the size and weight of their partner e.g. more medium breeds may be suited to helping a child with a spinal injury.
4. Diabetic alert dogs
Known as DADs, they provide independence and security by alerting their owners when there is a change in their blood sugar. In diabetics, scent changes related to hyperglycemic or hypoglycemic events are imperceptible to humans, but not to dogs. Before blood sugar levels reach dangerous levels, these service dogs alert their owners.
A diabetic alert dog alerts his human to take a blood test. Before his blood level becomes dangerous, he can inject insulin or eat glucose. In many cases, these dogs are trained to alert others in the household or to activate an alarm system if their owner requires medical attention.
5. Seizure alert dogs
One of the more controversial types of service dogs, these gifted canines notice specific types of behaviors in their human prior to experiencing a seizure. This amazing ability to alert to seizures seems to be a natural ability for a small number of dogs. Many patients, families, and trainers swear by their seizure alert dog, however, some medical experts say there isn't enough reliable evidence to support this claim and further testing needs to be done.
6. Seizure response dogs
The seizure response dog is not to be confused with seizure alert dogs. These service dogs assist individuals before, during, and after a seizure. This includes:
- Barking for help or to activate K-9 emergency alarm system
- Assisting their partner in regaining consciousness after a seizure.
- Moving their person if they are having a seizure in an unsafe place.
- Attempting to end their partner's seizure with deep pressure stimulation early.
- Locating and bringing medicine to their person as they come out of a seizure.
7. Psychiatric service dogs
People suffering from issues like depression, anxiety, and most often post-traumatic stress disorder benefit from these types of service dogs. People who suffer from PTSD may have served in combat, worked as first responders, experienced abuse, natural disasters, terrorism, and other life-altering events.
People who have experienced these types of events tend to feel hyper-vigilant about their safety. This is where their service dog comes in! These fearless hounds, make their companion feel safer by doing things like:
- Entering the home first
- Turning on the lights
- Created personal space in crowded places
Coincidently, having a service dog also forces PTSD sufferers to be more social, out in the community, walking their dog - accidentally forcing them to take care of their mental and physical health.
8. Autism support dogs
For people on the autism spectrum, navigating social settings can be tricky. Autism Support dogs provide a sense of predictability and act as an ice breaker when their humans are struggling to make new social connections. This reduces social isolation and comforts the child in stressful times. These dogs are also trained to track their owner by their scent or previous locations if they do run off during stressful times.
9. Allergy detection dogs
With a consistent rise of food allergies present in children and adults that have lethal implications, this has led to another type of medical service dog. Allergy detection dogs are trained to detect the odor of things like peanuts and gluten. The allergy detection dogs are often partnered with children to alert them to allergy-inducing smells at school. As well as giving kids a greater sense of independence, allergy detection dogs provide parents with a feeling of security.