A lot of people think of service dogs as just guide dogs, but it’s amazing how many other tasks a service dog can be trained to do to help their handler. Let’s break down the areas in which dogs can provide service support.
1) Dogs Can Provide Mobility Assistance
For people with physical limitations, service dogs can be used for balance support, retrieving items, opening and closing doors, and other tasks that are part of daily life or in the event of emergencies. You may also see miniature horses being used to help with these types of tasks. Mobility Assistance Dogs may wear a special harness that helps their handler hold onto them in the case of balance support.
2) Dogs Can Be Trained to Provide Autism Support
Some Autism Support Dogs can be trained to recognize and interrupt self-harming behavior and deescalate the situation by placing gentle, calming pressure. Some studies have also found that the partnership between a child and dog can help them build empathy skills. For more information see Autism Speaks.
3) A Dog Can Become A Seizure Alert Dog
For people who live with Epilepsy, Seizure Alert Dogs can be trained to respond to a seizure in a number of ways. A dog can alert someone nearby for help or be trained to push a specific alarm device. They can lie on the floor next to their handler to prevent injury, or break the fall at the start of a seizure. For children who may be playing outside or in another room, a seizure dog can alert the parents if they need help. Training to alert the handler in advance of a seizure is far more complicated. To learn more see here.
4) Dogs Can Be Trained As An Allergy Alert Dog
To say ‘dogs have an amazing sense of smell’ is an understatement. they can detect odors at concentrations of 1-2 parts per trillion. That’s equivalent to being able to detect 1 teaspoon of sugar in 2 Olympic-sized pools. It’s no wonder dogs can be trained to detect life threatening allergens for handlers with anaphylaxis. Dogs can even be trained to detect diseases like cancer or diabetes.
5) Some Dogs Can Become A Medical Assistance Dog
These dogs are trained to provide specific assistance in relation to a medical need, like detecting a change in blood sugar for diabetics, a change in hormone level, or another measurable body symptom. They may also be trained to call 911.
6) A Dog Can Serve As Hearing Support
For the hearing impaired, hearing dogs alert their handler to important sounds within their environment like sirens, horns, the sound of their name, doorbells, or alarms. Hearing Dogs make physical contact and guide their handler to the source of the sound, giving them freedom and independence at home and in their daily lives.
7) A Dog Can Provide Wheelchair Assistance
These service dogs assist with dropped objects, retrieving items, opening doors, and anything else that may help their handler in their daily lives. These dogs may also wear a special harness to help their handler hold them.
8) Dogs Can Be Trained To Provide Psychiatric Support
A psychiatric Service Dog is the most misunderstood type of Service Dog and can be confused with Emotional Support, however Psychiatric disabilities or mental disabilities are protected under the ADA for PTSD, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, depression, and anxiety. Dogs may be trained in a specific task like guiding their handler away from a stressful situation, assessing an environment for hazards, putting calming pressure on their handler, or other tasks specific to the disability.
Getting a Service Dog can be life changing for many individuals, however they should never be thought of as an instant solution.
While a Service Dog can be trained to do many tasks that help in daily life, building the partnership between handler and dog takes months of training and teamwork. You should also consider if your dog has the right temperament. Any breed is capable of becoming a service or therapy dog, but some breeds are better suited to the task. Before making the commitment, consider the time and energy you will have to put into the relationship and whether a Service Dog is the right fit for you.