A service dog is a dog specially trained to assist people suffering from various diseases and ailments. Medical response dogs are also considered as service dogs. Good health and desirable traits are important attributes of these dogs. They are either trained by private organizations, or by the owner himself.
Different Types of Service Dogs
Mobility Assistance Dogs
A mobility assistance dog is specially trained to help people with physical disabilities. These dogs are trained in simple tasks such as picking up objects, or opening and closing doors. Dogs of large stature are also trained in pulling wheelchairs. They are made to wear specially designed harnesses to pull them.
A subtype of mobility assistance dog, the walker dog is trained to accompany people recovering from injuries. Mobility assistance dogs are also trained to help Parkinson's patients. They help the individual maintain balance while walking. If the handler falls, the dog acts as a brace and helps him regain position.
Psychiatric Service Dogs
A psychiatric service dog is especially trained to assist people with psychiatric disability. These dogs are trained to handle various types of psychiatric disabilities, ranging from schizophrenia to post-traumatic stress. Each of these dogs undergoes training to perform tasks which are specifically meant to help his handler in emergency situations.
They are expected to provide environmental assessment in case of hallucinations and paranoia. Additionally, they are also trained to alert the handler in case of danger.
Service Dogs for Diabetics
These dogs are specially trained to assist people with diabetes by identifying minor scent changes created by hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, and take necessary steps, such as alerting medical response.
They are also trained in tracking the shifting levels of the handler's condition and alert the person to check blood sugar levels or take necessary medication. These dogs detect the faint changes in the scent, which can't be detected by humans, and hence, prove to be worthy companions for people with diabetes.
Seizure Response Dogs
A seizure response dog is a type of service dog, especially trained to assist people having seizures. Each person with seizure demonstrates different traits and hence, each seizure response dog has to be specifically trained to help a particular individual.
These dogs are trained to summon health, activate medical alert, attempt to arouse the handler if he is unconscious, provide physical support, etc. Only a few organizations provide seizure response dogs, as it is difficult to find dogs with necessary traits and train them.
Autism Service Dog
As the name suggests, these dogs are especially trained to help people with autism. They help these people perform daily activities, thus helping them gain confidence and making them independent. It is difficult for these people to quickly respond to things happening around them.
Simple situations can be too confusing for them. For instance, they don't understand how they are supposed to react if the house catches fire. In such a situation, the dog can help the handler realize that there is some threat and help him move out of the house.
These dogs are also trained to alert the handler in case of simple activities, like getting a call on the telephone or if a baby is crying. More recently, they are being trained as babysitters for young autistic children, with a part of the training involving alerting the parents when these children are in dangerous situations.
The practice of training dogs to help people with disabilities has gained wide popularity over the period, with several organizations in the United States providing various types of service dogs trained for a particular purpose. Even law favors this concept and hence, these dogs are allowed to enter premises where animals are normally not allowed.