21 Oct 2019

Service dogs are specially trained to help people with disabilities do specific tasks in their daily life, or help them to respond to episodes related to their disability. The most commonly known type of service dog is a “seeing eye dog,” which is a dog specifically trained to help blind, or visually impaired people to be mobile and perform basic life functions. However, there are many other types of service dogs, and some for disabilities that are not apparent.  Here are a few types of service dogs and the people they help.

1. Mobility Assistance Dogs Help People in Wheelchairs

Service dogs that provide physical support to people with limited movement are called mobility assistant dogs. They may open doors for those in wheelchairs, turn lights on and off, pick up objects from the floor and retrieve them from other places. Some are even trained to unload laundry, press elevator buttons, and pay cashiers.  These service dogs are truly life changing for their owners.

2. Seizure Response Dogs Help Epileptics

Epilepsy is a condition that causes seizures.  When an epileptic has a seizure there can be complications like head or neck injuries, lacerations, or other problems associated with uncontrolled physical movements. Seizure Response Dogs can make the difference between life and death in some circumstances.

The Seizure Response Dogs that SDWR places do not detect a seizure before it happens, rather, these dogs respond to the event after it occurs. Because of the nature of seizure disorders and the chance of a secondary injury, responding to the episode is of great importance.  Seizure Response Dogs can activate life-alert systems, guard a person from well-intentioned onlookers, retrieve cell phones, even act as a physical brace if needed.  These are truly amazing dogs!

3. Diabetic Alert Dogs Help People With Diabetes

These dogs are called diabetic alert service dogs and provide independence and security to their human handlers by alerting them to changes in their blood sugar. They can pick up on the scent changes tied to hyperglycemic and hypoglycemic diabetics and alert their handlers when the levels get dangerous.

After the alert, if the handler needs medical help the dog can alert others in the household or set off an alarm system.

4. PTSD Service Dogs Help People Battling Mental Illnesses 

Psychiatric service dogs are trained to assist people suffering from depression, anxiety, and, most commonly Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

People who have PTSD may be hyper-vigilant about their safety, and PTSD service dogs may help them feel safer. They may be trained to enter the home before the handler and turn on the lights. A PTSD Service Dog may be trained to create a physical barrier between their handlers and other people while in public, making the owner feel less overwhelmed.

PTSD Service Dogs can be trained for a variety of actions, both direct and indirect.  The dogs may be trained to help with medication reminders, or even to retrieve medications or fluids as needed.  Beyond specific training, there are indirect elements as well; just the act of caring for a service dog can help relieve a PTSD sufferer from apathy and low mental energy.

5. Autism Service Dogs Help People (particularly children) With Autism

There are service dogs that are specially trained to help children diagnosed with autism. These dogs, called Autism Service Dogs, provide autistic kids with a sense of predictability as they navigate social settings like church and school. They also increase the child’s quality of life by reducing isolation and comforting them.  Autism service dogs can be effective in keeping autistic children from running away (on purpose or inadvertently) and can often track them if they do run off.

Final Words About Service Dogs

Because there are a number of different types of service dogs, you may encounter them when in public.  If you do encounter a service dog and his handler, you should not distract these dogs by petting, speaking to or whistling at them. The best thing to do if you see a service dog in public is to quietly admire them from a respectable distance, and know they are helping make a positive difference in someone’s life.