In our latest blog, we’d like to take a closer look at some pretty amazing animals known as Service Dogs. Living in a large metropolitan area, it’s not uncommon to walk into a local supermarket and see a service dog providing assistance to its owner or “handler” as they may also be known. While, from our perspective, all service dogs may look the same, or at least pretty similar, service dogs are actually trained to meet the very specific needs of the individuals they serve. Most of us have seen service dogs that serve the vision impaired, but there are many different needs these dogs meet. Let’s take a look at the different types of service dogs and the different needs they meet.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF SERVICE DOGS
- Severe Allergy Alert Dogs: The job of these service dogs is to alert their owner/handler to life-threatening allergens such as nuts or shellfish. These service dogs will carry their owner’s emergency medications in the pockets of their vests, which read: “In case of Emergency, check pockets.”
- Autism Assistance Dogs: The job of an Autism Assistance dog is to provide a calming affect on the child or adult they serve. Individuals who are on the Autism Spectrum can easily become anxious; the assistance dog would provide some tactile stimulation that will serve to calm the individual. These dogs usually do not wear gear unless their handlers are non-verbal, in which case they will wear a vest carrying emergency protocol.
- Wheelchair Assistance Dogs: These dogs are trained to serve their owners in a variety of ways such as opening and closing doors, retrieving objects and basically helping with anything that is needed. Most often, these service dogs will simply wear a harness that is used to help pull the wheelchair of their handler.
- Visual Assistance Dogs: Most of us were likely introduced to service dogs through visual assistance dogs, or as some may refer to them: “seeing eye dogs.” In fact, in 1929, the first school for guide dogs in the United States was The Seeing Eye, Inc. For many years this was the only school in the US for training assistance dogs and it was established to assist the visually impaired. Visual Assistance dogs will wear a harness that will always have some white on it; white is the color used to denote a visual service dog or visually impaired person.
- Seizure Response Dogs: Seizure response dogs respond to their handler’s seizures by retrieving medication or seeking help. These particular dogs are trained in the tasks they are to do, but they are NOT actually trained to be alert to seizures. The dog’s response to the seizure is something he learns on his own by spending time with his owner. It becomes an intuitive response in the dog.
- Diabetes Assistance Dogs: These dogs are trained to alert their owner about dangerous sugar highs or lows, which can be deadly for a diabetic. Many of these dogs are trained to call 9-1-1 on a special K-9 alert phone if their handler is unresponsive. These dogs will typically wear a vest with the needed emergency protocols and would be the first point of contact for an emergency responder.
- Hearing Assistance Dogs: These dogs are often identified with a bright orange vest or other piece of gear since many states have designated bright orange as the color for hearing assistance dogs. These dogs are trained to alert their handlers of a variety of sounds such as the doorbell, alarms, sirens, phones and vehicles that could pose a danger to their handler.
- Medical Alert Assistance Dogs: These dogs are trained to alert their handlers to dangerous physical changes such as blood pressure or other issues.
- Medical Assistance Dogs: These dogs are trained to help their handlers with a variety of tasks that may be difficult due to a physical disability of the handler.
- Psychiatric Service Dogs: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a very common issue for military personnel returning from difficult assignments. These dogs are trained to provide a calming presence for their owners.
Source: Anything Pawsable
Obviously, there are many conditions that humans experience where service dogs can provide a tremendous amount of help and support.
FACTS YOU MAY NOT KNOW
Some interesting things about Service dogs, that many people don’t know is that Service dogs are protected under Federal Law and businesses are not supposed to refuse service to an individual who has a service dog. Also, you may have noticed, when you see a Service dog in public, that their gear often says, “Please do not pet.” Why are service dogs not to be petted? Basically, because they are working. Their job is to protect their handler at all times and if strangers are petting them, that is likely to distract them from their very important job.
If you’d like more information about Service dogs, check out these resources.