Service Dogs

Service Dogs

First, lets hear it for all the dogs out there who assist people on a daily basis with personal physical issues, plus those dogs who provide support in hospitals and nursing homes.  This article touches on the different types of service dogs and what they do.

At anytime in my life when I heard the words “dumb dog” whether on t.v. or from an actual person, I thought that I would just lose it. With all the things that dogs do when given the chance, I can’t imagine why anyone would question a dog’s intelligence.

We all know what a difference dogs make in the everyday lives of those of us without limitations. But, I wanted to share with you the difference that assistance dogs make in the lives of those with disabilities including special needs children.

From what I understand, there is a distinct difference between the categories according to the ADA (American With Disabilities Act of 1990):

  • Therapy Dogs are trained to provide comfort and affection to those in nursing homes, hospitals, disaster areas, etc. These dogs do not have the same rights as Service Dogs.
  • Service Dogs a.k.a. Assistance Dogs are trained to to provide assistance and perform tasks for a person with a physical or mental disability. However, according to there were several key revisions made to the definition of “service dog” and “service animal” on July 23, 2010.

These furry helpers are so impressive!

The Different Categories

  • Seeing Eye Dogs or Guide Dogs – These dogs are literally the eyes for the blind. They are trained to guide and navigate blind and visually impaired people, providing them easier access to the world around them. The most popular breeds that serve as seeing eye dogs are Labrador retrievers and Golden Retrievers. These dogs learn to ignore distractions, avoid obstacles and maneuver sidewalks, stairs and streets. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is illegal to deny seeing eye dogs for the blind access to ANY public place. This holds true for Britain, Canada and most other countries as well.
  • Signal and Hearing Dogs – Trained to assist the deaf by alerting them to a large range of sounds such as doorbells, smoke alarms, alarm clocks, timers, babies and even peoples names. Here’s and example of how the hearing dog signals his owner: If someone rings the doorbell, the dog will approach his owner, then run to the door alerting him that someone rang the bell or knocked. He will do this until his owner reacts to the sound. Yep, amazing!

Hearing and signal dogs also have the same rights as guide dogs here in the U.S. and they are permitted in any public place with their guardian.

  • Mobility Assistance Dogs – O.k., now these guys are really incredible too! They are trained to do things like push buttons, pick things up, pull wheel chairs, open and close doors, retrieve items, load and unload the washing machine, call an ambulance and many more tasks.
  • Seizure Alert/Response Dogs – a.k.a. Medical Alert Dogs, these guys are trained to alert the person to an oncoming seizure. They are trained to respond by either staying with the person or getting help.
  • Medical Alert Dogs – These support dogs are trained to alert to approaching medical problems such as heart attacks, seizures (as mentioned above), diabetic issues such as hypoglycemic and hyperglycemic attacks, panic and anxiety attacks, post traumatic stress attacks and more.
  • Autism Service Dogs – These incredible assistance dogs can be a real blessing to those with autism and the parents of autistic kids. They can be trained to find help, keep kids from wandering into streets or traffic, alert the child when his name is being called, guide the child home should he become lost. Plus, the relationship between child and dog offers the capability of controlling outbursts such as anger, mood swings and aggression. shares great detail on how service dogs can help autistic children.

Do you have a dog that you think could be a therapy dog?