Learning About Service Dogs
In a world where our canine companions are often cherished as beloved pets, a special breed of dog goes above and beyond the role of a traditional four-legged friend.
These exceptional creatures, known as service dogs, possess an innate ability to transform the lives of people in need, forging a bond far beyond mere companionship.
Approximately 200,000 canines have been trained to be support animals for about 18 to 24 months.
This number includes comfort animals used by over 10,000 persons throughout Europe as well as an estimated 500,000 service dogs in the United States.
Unfortunately, about 50% of dogs trained by a service training organisation don't become registered assistance dogs.
Then again, they are put up for adoption and are highly coveted as they're already trained.
These unsung heroes—the loyal companions and guiding lights for individuals with disabilities—offer a helping paw and a heart full of love.
In this blog, we embark on a journey to explore the remarkable world of service dogs and the invaluable assistance they provide to those who require extra support in navigating daily challenges.
What's a Service Dog and What Do They Do?
Service dogs are trained to do specific tasks for individuals with disabilities, according to the American Disabilities Act.
These impairments can be sensory, physical, psychiatric, mental, or intellectual.
Service dogs have complete public access—they can go where other animals can't, such as restaurants and public transportation.
There's no commonly recognised list of service dog breeds, but the common characteristics are as follows:
A strong drive to work: An ideal service dog prefers an active lifestyle to lounging at home.
Adaptable: Therapy dogs can easily adjust to their environment and shouldn't cause disruptions in private or public places.
Intelligence: A service dog must execute complex duties requiring innate intelligence and sound judgement.
A pleasant demeanour: A trained dog must be at ease among other people and animals in a social setting.
- A caring personality: To best serve your needs, your service dog must be able to build a close bond with you.
Some of the common types of dogs trained as service companion animals are:
- American and English Labradors
- Bernese Mountain Dogs
- Border Collies
- German Shepherds
- Golden Retrievers
- Great Dane
- Portuguese Water Dogs
Still, regardless of the breed of dog, the ideal assistance animal should be focused on their handlers' needs.
What Are the Different Types of Service Dogs?
There are 10 types of service dogs. Let's take a look:
1. Mobility Assistance Dogs
These service canines can help people with several mobility challenges or physical disabilities.
Mobility support dogs can bring objects to people, press buttons on automated doors, brace ambulatory individuals, and pull wheelchairs up ramps.
These pet dogs also help boost confidence and independence.
Typically, mobility aid dogs should be large enough to support their handler.
2. Autism Service Dogs
For children on the autism spectrum, autism support dogs provide predictability in social situations.
Children who struggle with other people can benefit from the dogs as the latter break the ice in social settings.
Minimising isolation and consoling the child in stressful moments increase the quality of daily life.
These dogs can also track and prevent children from running away.
3. Guide Dogs
Possibly the most common type of service dog is a guide dog which helps blind persons or persons with visual impairments.
Guide dogs are usually the Retrievers breed.
However, Poodles are also excellent guides.
Guide dogs have helped visually impaired people for ages, possibly since Roman times, according to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind.
Many service animal rules were developed with guide dogs in mind.
4. Diabetic Alert Dogs
Also known as DADs, these service dogs alert their owners to blood sugar changes.
Dogs can detect hyperglycaemic and hypoglycaemia aroma changes in diabetics, while humans cannot.
Blood sugar service dogs warn owners before unsafe levels rise or fall.
When DADs alert, their owners test their blood.
They would then inject insulin or eat glucose before blood sugar becomes hazardous.
Additionally, these canines are trained to inform a family member or set off alarm clocks if their owner requires medical attention.
5. Psychiatric Service Dogs
Psychiatric service animals help people with depression or anxiety as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Service dogs can make hypervigilant human handlers feel safer by entering the residence before them and turning on the lights with a particular switch.
This trained service animal can aid their handler with PTSD, who may experience an anxiety attack in public spaces, by providing a physical barrier between the potential stressor and their owner.
6. Allergy Detection Dogs
The growth of food allergies has led to another medical service dog.
Peanut and gluten allergy detection dogs are taught to identify odours.
Often trained with kids, allergy detection canines can identify allergy-inducing odours at school.
Allergy detection dogs provide children independence and their parents' security.
7. Hearing Dogs
Service dogs alert persons with hearing issues to alarms, doorbells, and even crying babies.
The dog will touch their human and lead towards the sound when they hear it.
Labradors and Golden Retrievers are popular hearing dogs, but Miniature Poodles and Cocker Spaniels can also alert.
Assistance Dogs International notes that breeds like Terrier mixes, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus, and Chihuahuas are typically taught as hearing dogs from animal shelters due to their personalities.
8. Seizure Alert Dogs
Seizure-alert pups are controversial service dogs.
They behave a certain way before her person suffers a seizure.
A few dogs can naturally alert to seizures, but some neurology experts argue there’s no convincing evidence.
However, many patients, families, and trainers say their dogs correctly foresee and alert to seizures, and stories involving untrained dogs alerting have garnered media attention.
Some dog training agencies, such as UK-based Support Dogs and U.S.-based 4 Paws For Ability, suggest canines may be trained to alert to seizures.
Then again, the BC Epilepsy Society disagrees.
9. Seizure Response Dogs
Seizure response dogs help epileptic seizure victims, unlike seizure alert dogs.
These dogs bark for aid or to activate an alarm during a seizure.
They may bring medication or a phone to someone overcoming a seizure attack.
10. Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Service Dogs
These new types of service dogs help children with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders who were prenatally exposed to alcohol.
Physical, emotional, behavioural, and learning issues may affect these kids.
4 Paws for Ability also mentions that FASD canines are trained like autistic support dogs.
Training them to stop repetitive behaviour is possible.
Service Dogs vs Emotional Support Dogs vs Therapy Dogs
Aside from the 10 types listed above, you might also be familiar with emotional support animals (ESA) and therapy dogs.
ESAs need not be dogs; they can be any domesticated animal offering companionship, relieving anxiety, loneliness, phobias, depression, or support.
The significant difference between an ESA and a service animal is the latter requires specialised training.
ESA letters from licenced mental health professionals are the only legal way to have an emotional support animal.
On the other hand, therapy dogs need to be certified by an organisation which may have different requirements.
A therapy dog improves physical, social, emotional, and cognitive function in groups or individually.
Therapy dogs aid persons with or without medical or physical ailments by providing comfort and affection.
These dogs and their human counterpart (typically the dog's owner) volunteer in therapeutic settings like hospitals, mental health institutes, hospices, schools, and nursing homes.
Related: The Best Dog Breed for Van Life
Service dogs are truly remarkable companions who provide invaluable assistance to individuals with various disabilities and medical conditions.
These highly trained and dedicated animals play a crucial role in enhancing the daily lives of their handlers, enabling them to lead more independent and fulfilling lives.
Service dogs remind us of the profound connection between humans and animals, demonstrating the power of empathy, compassion, and collaboration.
As we continue to learn more about the capabilities of service dogs and explore new ways to support individuals with disabilities, let us celebrate these remarkable canines and their immeasurable contributions to our society.
By spreading awareness and supporting service dog programs, we can ensure that more individuals in need can experience the life-changing magic of these four-legged superheroes.
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