The most popular and well known service dogs are probably Guide Dogs, who help people with visual impairments get around more easily. But people use service dogs for a variety of reasons, both due to physical challenges and also for emotional support. These dogs provide essential services to people whose lives would be in danger, or who may not be able to function at their highest capacity without the dogs’ support. Read on to discover 7 types of service dogs you may never have heard of, and how they help their people.
What they do: Hearing dogs are paired with hearing impaired people, to alert them of any ambient noises that may be pertinent for their person to be alerted to, such as doorbells, car honks, their name, alarms, crying babies, and more. They will get their person’s attention and then lead them towards the sound in question. They often may not look like they are working, when they are.
How to recognize them: They do not always have specific gear to signal that they are a working dog, but many places do designate orange vests to hearing dogs.
Breeds: Labradors and golden retrievers are the two main breeds used as hearing dogs, but many other breeds, including cocker spaniels, terrier mixes, miniature poodles, Lhasa apsos, poodles, shih tzus, and even Chihuahuas are often used.
2. Brace/Mobility Support Dogs (BMSD)
What they do: These dogs are trained to provide counterbalancing, or to brace people with balance and mobility issues. They are also trained to help with every day tasks and activities such as opening and closing doors, pressing buttons on elevators and at street crossings, retrieving objects, helping their person up after a fall, and helping during an emergency. They help people in wheelchairs, those with spinal cord and brain injuries, people who have trouble standing, maintaining a regular gait, people with muscular dystrophy, and even those with arthritis.
How to recognize them: Most of the time BMSDs do wear a special harness that is designed to aid them in serving and assisting their partner. A brace is not always worn, however, so not having one does not mean the dog is not a service dog.
Breeds: Larger breeds are needed for this job, as generally they must be 23″ tall and at least 55 pounds to be physically able to brace and support their person. The larger the person, the larger the dog needed!
3. Psychiatric Service Dog (PSDs)
What they do: These dogs are trained to do specific tasks to assist those living with PTSD, anxiety, depression, bipolar disease, schizophrenia, and other psychiatric and emotional disorders. They are especially useful for people who have undergone trauma that has caused them to be hyper vigilant about their safety. The dog can help them feel safe by entering their handler’s house and turning on all the lights with special foot pads. They can also help those who feel overwhelmed in crowded public and social situations by placing themselves between their person and others to give their handler more personal space. They can help their handler remain calm, and give them the motivation to get out of bed, because they must also take care of their dog.
How to recognize them: They do not require specific gear, so often they can be hard to spot, but they are still doing their job.
4. Severe Allergy Alert Dogs (AAD)
What they do: These dogs are trained to smell and detect allergens that may be deadly to their handler. Tree nuts (like peanuts), gluten, and shellfish are three of the most deadly allergens, and these dogs are often partnered with children who may not be able to tell if one of these allergens is in their food when they are away from their parents.
How to recognize them: These dogs usually wear vests with supplies in the pockets in case of an allergy emergency. They will generally have a patch that says, “IN EVENT OF EMERGENCY, CHECK POCKETS.” In their pockets there are usually medical emergency information and medication.
Breeds: Usually German Shepherds, poodles, golden retrievers, Labs and mixed breed dogs.
5. Autism Assistance Dog
What they do: These dogs are typically paired up with children and sometimes also adults with autism to help them in various life situations. They may calm them with tactile and “deep pressure stimulation”, help with teaching life skills, keep them from running off, help them stop at intersections and assist with leading them back home or to their guardian.
How to recognize them: They often have two leashes – one for the child to hold on to and one for the child’s guardian to hold on to. They do not have a specific uniform, but since they care primarily for children who may not always be able to verbalize, these dogs will often wear a vest with any emergency protocol and contact information.
Breeds: Usually Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and crosses of the two breeds.
6. Seizure Response Dogs
What they do: Seizure response dogs are not generally able to be trained to sense an oncoming seizure, but rather, that skill will often spontaneously develop over time. They are, however, trained on how to respond to seizures. The amazing dogs that develop the ability to sense seizures can sometimes detect one 30 minutes before their person is about to experience it. Whether or not the dog can sense it coming, they are always trained to respond with specific tasks such as retrieving medication, getting help from a nearby person who can call 911, activating a special medical alert in the home, using deep pressure stimulation to help end a seizure early, pull objects that may hurt their handler away from them, or keep them from falling or walking into areas which may hurt them.
How to recognize them: They do not have specialized gear, but will often carry information on the handler’s medical condition, instructions for first responders, emergency medication, and oxygen.
Breeds: Breeds are primarily Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers and crosses of the two breeds, and sometimes poodles for those who need a hypoallergenic dog.
7. Diabetic Alert Dogs (DADs)
What they do: These dogs are trained to let their person know when they are experiencing potentially lethal blood sugar spikes and dips. Many have special K-9 Alert Phones they are trained to press to call 911 if there is an emergency and their handler is unresponsive. These amazing dogs have such sensitive noses that they can use them to detect a change in blood sugar levels up to 30 minutes before a glucose meter or monitor can. This way, once alerted, the handler can take precautions in order to avoid dangerous blood sugar levels.
How to recognize them: They don’t have special gear, but rather a regular vest where they may carry emergency protocols.
Breeds: Labs and goldens seem to be the primary dogs trained for this, however there are many different breeds capable of being DADs, and they are often evaluated for duty on their effectiveness rather than their breed.
Resources: 1. Anything Pawsible 2. Service Dog Express 3. Dogster 4. Diabetic Alert Dogs Of America 5. FickleFeline 6. Meryl_1987 7. Grizzly The Service Dog 8. Heights Canine 9. Foster_Tales 10. ChocolateChunkMaggie 11. Life.with.shiloh 12.