Animals serve many roles in their human companions’ lives. In addition to being loyal pets, animals help wrangle livestock, assist police and rescue personnel, sniff out illnesses, and perform other lifesaving or comforting tasks.
Service dogs provide immeasurable value to the individuals who rely on them. The Americans with Disabilities Act says service dogs are those that are specifically trained to perform certain tasks for people with disabilities. The services provided can help individuals with psychiatric, physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities.
The organization Share America advises that there are at least half a million service dogs in the United States.
Service dogs have the legal right to enter all public spaces, which sets them apart from emotional support animals. The following are some of the different types of service dogs.
Cardiac service dogs: These dogs can recognize dangerous changes in an individual’s heart rate or blood pressure. They can alert people to issues so immediate interventions can be made. Cardiac service dogs also can be trained to notify emergency services of a life-threatening event.
Guide dogs: These are among the most recognizable service dogs. They assist the visually impaired with navigating obstacles and helping them get around.
Hearing dogs: Hearing dogs have to be specially trained to give off body language clues to convey messages to their owners, rather than barking. This may include touching with a nose or paw.
Seizure alert dogs: Seizure alert dogs are trained to recognize subtle changes in human behavior that indicate a seizure is imminent. They can position themselves to protect a person during a seizure.
Diabetic alert dogs: A dog’s sense of smell is thousands of times more acute than a human’s. Diabetic alert dogs can smell chemical changes in bodies that are traced to altered blood sugar readings that occur with diabetes.
Mobility assistance dogs: These dogs offer assistance to those with mobility issues, such as individuals with paralysis, arthritis and spinal cord injuries. The dogs can close doors, pull wheelchairs, fetch objects, and support the weight of a person’s body.
Autism support dogs: Autism support dogs may provide comfort and reduce anxiety among children with autism, and could even prevent such youngsters from running away.
According to the United Disabilities Services Foundation, certain dog breeds are better suited to service dog work. Notably, these include Labradors, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Poodles, Boxers, Border Collies, Great Danes, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and sometimes Cocker Spaniels.