People have always described dogs as man’s best friend, but a service dog provides an invaluable service for their owner. A service dog is an important member of the family and can even save their companion’s life. However, there isn’t just one type of service dog because there are many medical and psychiatric ailments that dogs can help. Each one is specially trained to assist their owners with their specific ailment. Here are ten different courageous and loyal types of service dogs who strap on their k9 tactical gear and go to work every day.
Best Breeds for Service Dogs
Not every canine can be a service dog. Some breeds are better than others. Some of the best dog breeds that can be service dogs include:
- German Shepherd
- Golden Retriever
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Labrador Retriever
- Border Collie
- Great Dane
- Pit Bull
- Cocker Spaniels
Autism service dogs help children with autism execute daily tasks and gain their independence. These dogs are trained to perform critical tasks, such as alerting the child’s parents if they are in a potentially dangerous situation, alerting them to important noises, and stopping harmful behavior. They’re also an emotional support and help increase confidence, allowing the child to connect with other people. These canines are excellent ice breakers. Autism dogs go through arduous training that is like that for guide dogs.
Diabetic Alert Dogs
Diabetic alert dogs (DADs) help people with diabetes gain their independence and alert them to changes in their handler’s glucose levels. Their sense of smell is incredible and a critical lifeline that works by detecting the changes in blood sugar levels in the person’s saliva.
Diabetes is a serious ailment that can cause death if not managed. These service dogs save their owner’s life regularly by alerting them so they can ingest something to counteract low blood sugar or take their insulin. Diabetes service dogs also alert someone else if their handler has a medical emergency.
These canines help people who are hard of hearing or deaf. Essentially, they act as the ears for their humans, alerting them to important noises such as doorbells, phones, alarm clocks, smoke alarms, traffic, and more.
Hearing dogs are some of the few who can go anywhere designated as a public place, such as restaurants, schools, grocery stores, and more. Breeds often used include poodles, cocker spaniels, and golden retrievers.
Psychiatric dogs help people suffering from PTSD, anxiety, and depression. PTSD often occurs after someone goes through a traumatic event. These events can include combat, natural disasters, abuse, working as a first responder, and other life-altering events—i.e., terrorism or a car crash. These helpers are trained to sense changes in their handler’s body, and they respond to that. These canines can also sense when their handler is getting ready to have an anxiety or panic attack or flashbacks.
Psychiatric service dogs can help people hypervigilant about their safety to feel secure and provide them with more personal space. They act as a barrier for people who are afraid in public spaces. For people suffering from depression, it forces them out of bed to take care of their dog, also forcing them to get exercise and get out of the house. In a way, it makes them take care of their own daily needs as well.
These service dogs are just emerging in recent years. FASD stands for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. These dogs help kids exposed to alcohol in their mother’s womb, who may have mental, behavioral, and physical difficulties that the canine helps them with. FASD canines receive training like autism dogs. These dogs can also be trained to stop repetitive behavior.
Seizure Alert Dogs
There are two kinds of seizure service dogs. The seizure alert canines are quite controversial because neurology experts explain that there is no scientific evidence that indicates dogs can predict seizures consistently. Supposedly, these canines can detect seizures by specific behaviors their handler has before a seizure starts. This continues to be studied.
These traits seem to be instinctual in smaller breeds. Trainers, patients, and families insist that seizure alert dogs can predict and alert humans about impending seizures. Indeed, some canines give an alert without training, and the media has featured many stories about this topic.
While some epilepsy groups such as the BC Epilepsy Society say that it’s impossible to train dogs to alert people to oncoming seizures, seizure assistance canines, just like autism dogs, give comfort to children with epilepsy. They act as an icebreaker for their handler and other children who don’t understand why the child with seizures is different.
Seizure Response Dogs
Seizure response service dogs help a person during and after a seizure occurs. They can activate an alert system and get the child to a safer place, as well as bring a phone or medicine to them. These dogs comfort the person and can act as a distraction during medical procedures, such as drawing blood or other tests. Seizure response dogs also work with children during their therapy sessions and encourage their participation. For the child who is scared to sleep alone, their friendly canine can put them at ease and help increase their independence.
Guide dogs help people who are visually impaired or blind to avoid obstacles when walking. The International Guide Dog Federation says that the first relationship between a blind person and dogs dates to at least the 1st century AD. A mural buried in the ruins of Roman Herculaneum illustrates this connection. It probably dates back longer. Many of the first rules and laws concerning service dogs were written for guide dogs. These dogs don’t have to wear any special dog gear such as a vest, but they often wear a distinct harness that has a handle on it to allow the dog to guide the handler.
These dogs are different from guide dogs. They are trained to help people with mobility issues, such as people in wheelchairs or with arthritis, as well as those with brain and spinal cord injuries, to be independent. These faithful canines can pull wheelchairs, bring objects to their owner, operate light switches, press buttons, and open and close doors. Mobility dogs make an immense impact on their humans’ lives because they increase their confidence that they can do things independently. Larger breeds are used as mobility service dogs because they are required to pull a lot of weight.
With the ever-increasing number of people with allergies growing every day, a new service category evolved: the allergy service dog. People train these dogs to sniff out allergens such as gluten, dairy, peanuts, fish, and shellfish, etc. Allergy dogs are often paired with children and can save them from eating foods they’re allergic to when their parents aren’t around, such as in a school environment. These dogs enable independence in children with severe allergies and allow their parents to rest easy.
These are the primary types of service dogs. There are other animals that serve as emotional support, but they aren’t classified as service dogs. Comfort animals don’t have the same privileges and aren’t allowed in many public places. For many people with physical, mental, and emotional ailments and conditions, these dogs change their lives because they allow them to do everyday tasks that other people take for granted. They provide comfort and hope to many.