10 Types of Service Dogs And What They Do

Many dog people would say their canine companions are their best friends, but for a growing number of individuals with specific physical, neurological or mental health needs, different types of service dogs are also invaluable partners in day-to-day life. Legally, these dogs are welcome in places where pet dogs are not. Unfortunately, the practice of non-disabled people passing off pet dogs as different types of service dogs has eroded the rights of real assistance dog handlers, especially those with invisible disabilities.

“Don’t make assumptions,” says Toni Eames, president of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners. “If you see a person who can walk and talk, and they’re sighted, and they’re hearing, the dog may be alerting to diabetes or seizures.”

According to Eames, those tasks may be done by a breed who doesn’t fit the popular image of a service dog as a retriever or a German Shepherd Dog. As the list of jobs for service dogs grows, so does the diversity of service dog breeds helping disabled people.

Let’s take a look at 10 types of service dogs, from the well-known to the newly developed:

1. Guide dogs

A Guide Dog helps his handler cross the street. Image via Shutterstock

A guide dog helps his handler cross the street. Photography by Lars Christensen / Shutterstock.

Assistance dogs who lead visually impaired and blind people around obstacles are one of the most commonly known types of service dogs. Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Lab/Golden hybrids are often dog breeds chosen as guide dogs, although other breeds, such as Poodles, can also be well suited to be this type of service dog.

According to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, guide dogs have been helping visually impaired people for centuries, and their use may date back to Roman times. Many laws and pieces of legislation regarding service animals were original written with an emphasis on guide dogs. While people often expect guide dogs and other assistance dogs to wear vests, the Americans With Disabilities Act does not require a vest, although they’ll often be wearing a special harness with a handle on it.

2. Hearing dogs

For people with hearing impairments, these types of service dogs assist by alerting their human to noises such as alarms, doorbells, or crying babies. When the dog hears the sound, they’ll touch their human and lead toward the noise.

Labradors and Golden Retrievers are dog breeds that are often selected as hearing dogs, but many other breeds, including Cocker Spaniels and Miniature Poodles, have been successfully trained to alert as a hearing dog. According to Assistance Dogs International, small-to-medium mixed breeds acquired from animal shelters are often trained as hearing dogs, with Terrier mixes, Poodles, Cockers, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus and even Chihuahuas being selected for personality and temperament.

3. Mobility assistance dogs

Mobility Assistance Dogs can retrieve objects and help handlers get around. Image via Shutterstock.

Mobility Assistance Dogs can retrieve objects and help handlers get around. Photography by dogboxstudio / Shutterstock.

These types of service dogs can perform a wide range of tasks for people with a wide range of mobility issues. According to Service Dogs of America, mobility assistance dogs can bring objects to people, press buttons on automatic doors, serve as a brace for people who are ambulatory or even help pull a wheelchair up a ramp. These dogs help people increase their independence and confidence.

People with spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, muscular dystrophy, and arthritis are among those who benefit from being partnered with a mobility assistance dog. Different breeds are selected depending on the handler’s size, but the dogs must be large enough to support their human partner.

4. Diabetic alert dogs

Also known as DADs, these types of service dogs can provide independence and security by alerting to chemical changes in their handler’s blood sugar. The scent changes associated with hyperglycemic or hypoglycemic events in diabetics are imperceptible to humans, but dogs can pick up on them and alert their people to blood sugar highs and lows before the levels become dangerous.

When a diabetic alert dog alerts, his human then knows to test his blood, then inject insulin or ingest a dose of glucose before his blood level gets dangerous. Many of these dogs are trained to go alert others in the household or set off an alarm system if their human needs medical help.

5. Seizure alert dogs

Seizure alert dogs are a controversial type of service dog who react with a specific type of behavior right before her human has a seizure. The ability to alert to seizures seems to be a natural ability for a small number of dogs, although some neurology experts say there is no reliable evidence to suggest that dogs can reliably predict seizures.

On the other hand, many patients, families and trainers insist their dogs do accurately predict and alert to oncoming seizures, and stories about pet dogs who alert without training have received a lot of media attention. Some epilepsy organizations, like the BC Epilepsy Society, state that it’s not possible for dogs to be trained to alert to seizures, but some dog training agencies (including UK-based Support Dogs and 4 Paws For Ability in the U.S.) say it is possible to train a dog to alert.

6. Seizure response dogs

Not to be confused with seizure alert dogs, seizure response dogs are trained to provide help to a person experiencing an epileptic seizure, not to predict the seizure. These dogs can be trained to bark for help or to press an alarm system during a person’s seizure. They can also get a person out of an unsafe place during a seizure and help the handler to come around when the seizure ends. These dogs may also bring medicine or a phone to a person who is coming out of a seizure.

7. Psychiatric service dogs

PTSD Service Dogs often work with military veterans. Image via Shutterstock

PTSD Service Dogs often work with military veterans. Photography by sam100 / Shutterstock.

This versatile category of service dog assists people who are suffering from issues like depression, anxiety and most often post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD can afflict people after they’ve served in combat, worked as a first responder, or experienced abuse, natural disasters, terrorism and other life-altering events, such as car crashes.

The human handlers in this category can feel hyper vigilant about their safety, and service dogs can make them feel safer by doing things like entering the home before the human, and turning on the lights with a foot pedal. These dogs can also help PTSD sufferers who feel overwhelmed in public places by creating a physical barrier between the handler and others, giving the handler more personal space. Many PTSD sufferers find that having a service dog to care for forces the human to also take care of themselves, by getting out into the world and getting exercise with their dog.

8. Autism support dogs

A boy sitting with his two dogs. Image via Shutterstock.

Dogs can provide a social bridge for kids with autism. Photography by lassedesignen / Shutterstock.

For kids on the autism spectrum, these types of service dogs help provide a sense of predictability as the children navigate social settings, including school. The dogs can be a big help for kids who have trouble connecting with classmates, as the canine acts as an icebreaker in social situations. In addition to improving the child’s quality of life by reducing isolation and comforting the child in stressful times, these dogs are also trained to keep children from running away and can often track children if they do run off.

9. FASD service dogs

An emerging category of service dog, these dogs support children who were exposed to alcohol prenatally, and have been diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). These children may have physical and mental difficulties, as well as behavioral problems and learning disabilities. According 4 Paws for Ability, its FASD dogs are trained similarly to autism service dogs and can be trained to interrupt a repetitive behavior.

10. Allergy detection dogs

A dog sniffs out peanut butter. Image via Shutterstock.

Allergy Service Dogs are trained to sniff out peanuts. Photography by dogboxstudio / Shutterstock.

With the rise in food allergies has come another type of medical service dog. Allergy detection dogs are trained to sniff out and alert to the odor of things such as peanuts or gluten. Often partnered with children, allergy detection dogs can be trained to alert to allergy-inducing smells at school, providing the kids with a greater sense of independence and giving their parents a greater sense of security. While it’s clear that some dogs can be successfully trained to alert for allergies, this category of service dog attracted negative attention when some parents said they paid for dogs that couldn’t care less about a deadly peanut.

Other kinds of working dogs, including therapy dogs and emotional support dogs, are not classified as service animals as they’re not trained to perform a specific task to help their handlers. In most jurisdictions, these kinds of dogs are not afforded the same privileges as services dogs.

Thumbnail: Photography by Chuck Wagner / Shutterstock.

Read more about service dogs and types of service dogs:

About the Author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google+.

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11 Different Types of Dog Coats And Jackets

Ask any fashionista and they’ll tell you that a great coat selection is a staple of a well-rounded wardrobe. For dogs though, the jacket isn’t just an accessory… in most cases it’s the entire outfit! Dog coats come in all shapes and sizes and serve a number of different functions, depending on what your dog needs. So, whether it’s to keep warm when it’s below zero or just to impress a couple of friends at the next Yappy Hour, we compiled a list of some of the most common dog coats to keep your dog’s jacket game strong.

1. Dog Raincoat

Dog raincoat.

Fashion Pet Rainy Days Slicker Yellow Raincoat, Ethical Pet ($12.40). amazon.com

Ever tried to bring Biscuit in the shower with you? Chances are he wasn’t a fan. Well, that’s how he feels every time you take him out to tinkle in a torrential downpour. A doggie raincoat will hopefully alleviate his wet-fur syndrome.

2. Dog Cooling Coat

Cooling dog coat.

Cooling Coat, Hurtta ($36.95). amazon.com

Sometimes, rising temperatures make it dangerous for Fido to go outside. There are several different types of cooling coats perfect for defeating those dog days of summer.

3. Dog Windbreaker

Dog windbreaker.

Windbreaker 420D Deluxe Dog Coat, WeatherBeeta ($29.95). amazon.com

Dog windbreakers keep your pup warm and dry while still allowing the flexibility for full-on fun and exploration. They serve a needed function, while also adding to your pup’s fashion sense.

4. Dog Fleece

Fleece dog coat.

Stretch Fleece Pull Over Cold Weather Dog Vest, Gooby ($28.80). amazon.com

Fleece is the perfect choice for those cool fall days. With snuggly insulation and a super-soft finish, they’re the closest you’ll come to wrapping your pup in an actual cloud.

5. Dog Parka

Dog parka.

Metallic Fashion Pet Parka Coat, Pet Life ($22.97). amazon.com

When winter hits its full effect, parkas are the perfect accessory to keep your pet warm while simultaneously looking stylish. They’re also excellent if your pup knows how to snow ski.

6. Dog Snowsuit

Dog snowsuit.

Thunder-crackle Full-Body Waded-Plush Adjustable and 3M Reflective Dog Jacket, DogHelios ($54.49). amazon.com

Yes, these actually exist! Your little angel can make snow angels in these without getting frostbite.

7. Dog Insect-Protection Coat

Dog insect-protection coat.

Insect Repellent Shirt, Doggles ($34.84). amazon.com

Certain bugs carry diseases that might be harmful to your pup. These coats usually aren’t the most stylish, but they’ll protect against fleas, ticks and other insects.

8. Dog Reflective Jacket

Reflective dog jacket.

Winter Dog Jacket Gray & Yellow Weatherproof Fleece Lined Pet Coat, Midlee ($19.99). amazon.com

Got a tail-wagger that’s nocturnal? A reflective jacket is an underutilized accessory that could save your canine’s life. They increase visibility on early-morning walks or late-night play sessions.

9. Dog Faux-Fur Coat

Faux fur dog jacket.

Dog Jacket Luxury Leopard, Tzou ($9.98). amazon.com

Preferred by the poshest of puppies.

10. Dog Hoodie

Dog hoodie.

Charcoal Gray Adventure Zip Up Dog Hoodie, Ellie Dog Wear ($32.99). amazon.com

When your canine wants to keep it casual, hoodies are always an excellent option. Perfect for fall days, sporting events or just keeping low key on those bad fur days.

11. Dog Sun-Protection Coat

Dog sun-protection dog coat.

Lycra Bodysuit, K9 Top Coat (price depends on size and breed). k9topcoat.com

Did you know that certain canine breeds are very susceptible to skin cancer? Bathing them in Banana Boat isn’t going to help (never use human sunscreen on your dog!), but these UV-blocking bodysuits will not only decrease sun exposure, but they’ll make your pup look like a superhero as well.

Thumbnail: Photography ©Limourri | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

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