Service dogs are custom-trained pups that aid persons with physical disabilities in one or more limbs. They improve the person’s state by helping him/her with tasks such as opening doors, turning lights on/off, pulling a wheelchair, or picking up small objects.
Service Dogs and Their Duties
Many people are surprised to learn that several service dogs exist. Yet federal law values none of them. For the law, service dogs are service dogs. Classifying them, though, makes their tasks easy to distribute and the trainer’s life less stressful.
A few service dogs do two or more tasks for their handler. Thus, it’s common to hear someone say, “Oh, she’s a seizure-assistance and a brace/mobility support dog.” Experts claim that no exact way to classify service dogs exists, and grouping is not important because the dog’s job depends on the handler.
Below is a list of service dogs and their duties:
1) Brace/Mobility Support Dogs (BMSDs)
These dogs give bracing or support to their handler with balance issues due to an illness. Many BMSDs do other tasks that help their human partner in daily life, which includes opening and closing a door, or in times of emergencies.
2) Autism Assistance Dogs
They help persons with autism spectrum disorder to live by themselves. These dogs calm their handler through tactile or deep pressure stimulation.
3) Severe Allergy Alert Dogs
These dogs warn their owner to severe allergens present in the area such as gluten, tree nuts, and shellfish. Most of them carry medical information and emergency procedure in their vest or on a flash drive attached to their collar.
4) Hearing Dogs
They alert their deaf handler to sounds that include, but are not limited to, knocks, doorbells, alarms, cars, phones, or their name.
5) Diabetic/Blood Sugar Alert Dogs
These dogs alert their handler to fatal blood sugar highs and lows. They can call 911 on a special K-9 Alert Phone, too, once their handler faints or collapses.
6) Medical Alert Dogs
These dogs notify their handler of serious health changes that are measurable and verifiable such as drop or rise in hormone levels and blood pressure. Diabetic alert dogs are medical alert dogs, too, but not vice versa.
7) Medical Assistance Dogs
These dogs are the catch-all type since they don’t “fit” in any category. Handlers who don’t want to go into details prefer such dogs.
8) Visual Assistance Dogs
They guide the visually impaired. Dog experts call them “leader dogs” or “guide dogs,” too.
9) Seizure Response Dogs
Dogs of this type respond to their handlers’ seizures through trained tasks. They can retrieve medication, do deep pressure stimulation to end the seizure early, or fetch a nearby person to help or call 911.
10) Wheelchair Assistance Dogs
These dogs aid their partner by opening doors, retrieving the phone, picking dropped objects, helping with transfers, or with what their handler needs.
11) Psychiatric Service Dogs
They help people with mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety using specific, trained tasks. These canines differ from emotional support animals (ESAs) and therapy dogs.
Differences between Service and Therapy Dogs
A therapy dog gives comfort and love to people in schools, hospices, hospitals, nursing and retirement homes, disaster areas, and to people with autism. Federal law allows service dogs and their handlers to go to private businesses, unlike therapy dogs. These places include hotels, retail stores, concerts, and theaters. Another difference is that therapy dogs don’t perform tasks. They give love and affection alone.
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Image courtesy of Found Animals Foundation at Flickr.com