Service Dog

Unsung Working Dogs

Service Dogs

Ever hear the phrase “Service dog”? 

It sounds like one dog that provides many – or, at least, a number of – services.  Not so! 

According to the Americans With Disabilities Act, a Service Dog is one that is specifically trained to perform tasks for a disabled individual that they would otherwise have difficulty completing on their own.  A Service Dog allows such individuals to experience better-quality living. 

Betcha didn’t know there are over a dozen different specializations for Service Dogs. 

Many Dogs, Many Services

These are a few of the services Service Dogs perform:

Seizure Dogs

Seizure Dogs assist people before, during and after having a seizure.  They are always ready to go into action if their human has a seizure.

Seizure Alert Dogs

Seizure Alert Dogs can sense a seizure is coming on.  In such a case, s/he will display behavior that tells the handler (the human partner) a seizure is coming – pawing or nosing at the handler.  This gives the handler the opportunity to get to a safe place before the seizure begins.

Seizure Response Dogs

Seizure Response Dogs may get the person’s medication, fetch help, call 911 or even perform deep pressure stimulation to cause the seizure to subside.

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC.org), “Dogs cannot be trained to alert to oncoming seizures.  Those dogs that do alert their owners or other caretakers do so naturally.  It is currently unknown exactly what these dogs are detecting and how to train them to start or continue the behavior.  In short, a seizure alert dog is a dog that naturally alerts to seizures. 

“A seizure response dog is a dog that is trained to perform various behaviors in response to a seizure. 

Remember this and be wary of anyone promising to train your dog or another dog to alert to seizures.

Diabetic Alert Dogs (DADs)

A Diabetic Alert Dog (aka “Blood Sugar Alert Dog”) alerts her handler to dangerous (or potentially deadly) blood sugar highs and lows.  Many are trained to call 911 (on a special K9 Alert Phone) if their handler can’t be roused. 

Hearing Dogs

A Hearing Dog alerts his deaf handler to specific environmental sounds he has been trained to be aware of – doorbells, alarms, phones, cars.  There is no limit to the sounds. 

Visual Assistance Dogs

Black and white vector image of a Guide Dog in a harness.
Guide Dog

A Visual Assistance Dog guides her handler, who is visually impaired or blind.  Visual Assistance dogs wear a guide dog harness (some part of which is typically white).  Visual Assistance Dogs are also referred to as Guide Dogs or Leader Dogs.

In most cases, Visual Assistance Dogs are Labs, Golden Retrievers or German Shepherds.  Whatever the breed, it must be a medium or large-size, and the individual dog must be sturdy and even-tempered. 

Wheelchair Assistance Dogs

A cartoon drawing of a lady in a wheelchair beside a dog.
Lady in Wheelchair beside Dog

A Wheelchair Assistance Dog assists his handler by retrieving objects, opening doors, bringing him or her the phone – generally helping his handler do whatever needs to be done.  Some Wheelchair Assistance Dogs wear a special harness to assist in pulling a chair. 

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