Service Dogs: Here’s the 411

When we think of service dogs, many of us tend to first think of guide dogs for the blind. While that may very well be the main type of service dog, there are actually eight different types of service dogs!

Contrary to what some may think, this number does not include emotional support animals, which are growing in popularity and are not always truly support animals. Many times, people get their animals certified as an emotional support animal so that they can get tenancy in places that normally have a no pet policy (under the Fair Housing Act, they cannot be denied tenancy because of an emotional support animal). This is why emotional support animals are not considered service animals, or more specifically here, service dogs. These animals also do not have any formal training, which is another reason they are not considered service dogs.

What, then, is considered a service dog and how many are there out there in the world?

According to servicedogcentral.org, The University of Arizona found that “0.9% of persons with disabilities are partnered with service dogs. Congress found that there were 43 million Americans with disabilities, suggesting there are approximately 387,000 service dogs across the US.” That doesn’t seem like very many service dogs, which is probably why we don’t normally see them in our every day lives. To make that number even smaller, servicedogcentral.org went on to say, “… the University of Arizona figure probably includes emotional support animals which are sometimes grouped with service animals, such as under the Fair Housing Act or Air Carrier Access Act. A more reasonable estimate of the number of public access (task trained) service dogs in the US might be 100,000 to 200,000.”

Of that small number of actual certified service dogs that help those with disabilities, what are their capabilities? What are these eight different types of service dogs?

Check out this amazing article by petpetbuy.com for a comprehensive guide to help you better understand these amazing animals, their extraordinary skills, as well as anything else you might want to know about service dogs.

Below is a list of the eight different types of service dogs petpetbuy.com mentions. Their article also includes a more in depth description of these dogs, what to look for in a service dog, how you can get a service dog, and so much more!

Eight Types of Service Dogs:

Number One: Guide Dogs for the Blind: Obviously, the first type of service dog on our list is a guide dog for the blind or visually impaired. They are the most commonly known service dog and have a long history of providing their owners with independence, security and freedom. In public, the guide dog helps navigate the world around their owner while providing them with safety from unseen hazards. The dogs work closely with their owners and need to be able to make quick decisions for the benefit of their owner.

Number Two: Mobility Assistance Dogs: With mobility assistance dogs, there are several different sub-categories but the primary task of a mobility dog is to assist their owner with mobility. This can be by providing them with stability and balance, turning on lights or even answering the phone.

Number Three: Mental Health Service Dogs: Also known as psychiatric service dogs or PSD’s, mental health service dogs are difficult to describe. The main reason for this is because their roles vary greatly depending on the diagnosis of their owners. They can perform tasks from things such as pulling back blankets, turning on lights, to opening curtains and answering phones. In addition, they can be trained to identify when an anxiety attack is about to occur and they will use calming tasks such as deep pressure stimulation to help calm their owners. The scope of their training will range but they are trained to work with people who have an emotional or psychiatric disability such as PTSD, anxiety or ADHD to name a few.

Number Four: Diabetes Assistance Dogs: Also known as diabetic alert dog guides, these are dogs that are specially trained to work with diabetics, especially those who are insulin dependant and are hypoglycemic unaware. They can work with anyone 10 years or older and will help them monitor their blood sugar levels.

Number Five: Hearing Guide Dogs: Although we are often very familiar with guide dogs for the blind, fewer people are aware of guide dogs for the deaf or hearing guide dogs. However, they are a very important service dog that has allowed many to live independently without worry… The main role of the hearing guide dog is to alert their owner, though physical contact, to a sound. They will aid their owner both at home and in public.

Number Six: Seizure Response Dogs: Although many people think of a seizure response dog working to identify when a seizure is about to take place, seizure response dogs offer much more than that to their owners. Like many other service dogs, they work to make life easier for their owners by doing things such as retrieving medication. In addition, if a seizure hits, they are trained to perform deep pressure stimulation to help reduce the length of a seizure. Furthermore, they can be trained to fetch help in the event that their own has a strong seizure.

Number Seven: Allergy Dogs: Similar to other alert service dogs such as diabetes assistance dogs, allergy dogs offer companionship for their owners while they provide a service. They offer allergy sufferers, especially those with anaphylactic allergies, a sense of security when they are out with potential allergens in their environment. Allergy dogs, or allergy alert dogs, are trained to scent specific allergies that the owner has. When they scent the allergen, they alert the owner to the potential allergen. This helps them avoid eating the food or interacting with the allergen.

Number Eight: Autism Support Dogs: This is an exciting time for service dogs and I remember being part of the initial breeding programs when autism dog training started to become very successful. Unlike most service dogs, autism support dogs work with people of all ages, including children as young as 6 years old. Autism support dogs are trained to work with people with autism or sensory processing disorders found within the autism umbrella. They provide security for parents as they are trained to maintain boundaries as well as find their handlers if they’ve run.

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