The different types of service dogs help with physical and mental disabilities as they help their companions navigate the world around them.
A service animal is “...a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for a person with a disability.” They do excellent life-saving and life-changing work for their owners, so let’s take a closer look at the different types of service dogs.
Popular Dog Breeds for Service Dogs
- Golden Retrievers
- German Shepherds
- Great Danes
- Border Collies
- Bernese Mountain Dogs
- Portuguese Water Dogs
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Traits That Make a Good Service Dog
While different types of service dogs perform other duties, many of them do require similar traits. The following is a list of qualities that a service dog must possess:
- Eager to Please
- Willingness to Bond
- Calm Disposition
- Ability to Focus
- In Good Health
Hearing dogs do what their name suggests, hear and alert their deaf or hard of hearing companion. They are trained to listen for a sound or cue, like a person’s name, doorbell, fire alarms, and more, and then lead their owner toward the sound or to safety.
These hearing dogs are not required to wear any special gear or keep any medical information on them, but they are often outfitted in bright orange to indicate that they belong to a person that cannot hear.
Diabetic Alert Dogs
These four-legged heroes have the training to alert their human companions when they sense that their human is at risk of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia. When the dog tells them, the owner checks their blood levels and adjusts as needed. These service animals are also highly trained to alert other people in the home, set off an alarm, or even call 911 on a specialty K9 alert phone if their companion needs medical assistance.
Diabetic alert dogs wear vests with pockets to carry diabetic medications and a list of emergency protocols for first responders to follow if needed.
Autism Service Dogs
Trained to help people navigate social situations, autism service dogs can provide comfort and help autistic children connect with others. Not only do these dogs help people with autism improve their confidence and communication skills, but they also have the training to keep their owners from running away or track them if they happen to run.
Autism service dogs are often paired with children. The dog can pick up on harmful behaviors and alert its person’s parents when the child is in a potentially dangerous situation. Especially in cases where a child is non-verbal, autism service dogs will carry essential contact information and a guide to emergency protocols.
Seizure Response Dogs
A seizure response or alert dog assists their person before, during, and after a seizure. These dogs will accompany someone prone to seizures, such as someone with epilepsy, an autoimmune disorder, or someone taking a medication that lowers the seizure threshold. A seizure response dog will do the following as part of its job:
- Call 911 on a K9 alert phone or alert people in the immediate area
- Physically move their person if they are in a dangerous location during a seizure
- Apply physical pressure to calm a person during a seizure
- Carry or acquire medications needed after a seizure
- Help their companion come to or regain consciousness
Guide dogs or seeing-eye dogs are likely the most commonly seen of all the types of service dogs. Their primary responsibility is to guide their owner and help them navigate the world around them. A fun fact about guide dogs is that they practice intelligent disobedience, meaning that they listen and respond to commands, but they will ultimately make their own decisions in their owner’s best interest. For example, their owner might suggest that they need to cross the street, but the dog won’t let them if it’s a busy high-traffic area.
Along with their tags indicating that they are a service animal, a guide dog will also wear a harness with a handle on the back that the owner will grasp as the dog leads and guides.
Allergy Detection Dogs
Since food allergies are on the rise, specially trained dogs sniff out common allergens and protect their owners from them. Common allergens like peanuts, gluten, and eggs can all send someone with allergies to anaphylactic shock, so allergy dogs pick up on the scent of the allergen and alert their human before they can come into contact with it.
Allergy detection dogs also wear vests with pockets containing vital medical information and medications to assist with an allergic reaction.
Mobility Assistance Dogs
Mobility assistance dogs assist people who have limited mobility, such as those who are wheelchair dependent or paralyzed. This type of assistance dog can perform various tasks like pulling wheelchairs, fetching and delivering objects, operating doors and light switches, and so much more, making their owner’s life much more manageable. These dogs are typically large breeds so that they are strong enough to provide support.
PTSD and Psychiatric Service Dogs
These furry companions are specially trained and work for individuals who have PTSD and severe anxiety and depression. They can sense a change in their owner’s demeanor and
quickly notice if they are about to have an anxiety attack, flashback, or another negative symptom associated with their disorder.
Those who struggle with depression and anxiety can benefit from having a service dog, as the dog will provide comfort and force their owners to take care of themselves and get out into the world. People with PTSD use service dogs to preserve their personal space and act as a barrier between them and another fast-approaching person.
It’s important to note that psychiatric service dogs are different from emotional support dogs or therapy dogs. PTSD and psychiatric service dogs must go through extensive training and are considered a working dog rather than a pet.