For many of us, our dogs are our best friends. And for many others, dogs are superheroes, opening doors to independence and enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities and potentially life-threatening medical conditions. Service Dogs provide daily companionship while helping individuals mitigate disability-related limitations by serving as their helper, aide, best friend, and close member of their family.
What types of assistance dogs are there?
While many people are familiar with Guide Dogs, those that assist people with vision loss, not as many people are aware of the other types of assistance dogs working today. There is a wide variety of service dogs, each with the right personality and specialized training to make them the best fit for their specific job.
- Guide Dogs – Assist people with vision loss, leading these individuals around physical obstacles and to destinations such as seating, crossing streets, entering or exiting doorways, elevators and stairways.
- Service Dogs – Assist people with disabilities with walking, balance, dressing, transferring from place to place, retrieving and carrying items, opening doors and drawers, pushing buttons, pulling wheelchairs and aiding with household chores, such as putting in and removing items from the washer and dryer or refrigerator.
- Hearing Alert Dogs – Alert people with a hearing loss to the presence of specific sounds such as doorbells, telephones, crying babies, sirens, another person, buzzing timers or sensors, knocks at the door or smoke, fire, and clock alarms.
- Seizure Alert/Seizure Response Dogs – Alert or respond to physiological changes that precede a seizure brought on by epilepsy or diabetes, warning the person and notifying other people of the potential emergency.
- Medical Alert/Medical Response Dogs – Alert to oncoming medical conditions, such as heart attack, stroke, panic attack, anxiety attack, and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Assistance Dogs not only help their people with daily tasks, but they also make it possible for their people to explore the world more fully. Thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), all of these dogs can go everywhere that their people go, opening up the world in ways that might not have been available to the people before they had the dogs.
People can sometimes confuse Service Dogs with other types of assistance dogs, such as Emotional Support Dogs or Therapy Dogs. While these dogs offer an invaluable service to the people they live and work with, they are not recognized under the ADA and therefore don’t have the right to go everywhere that Assistance Dogs can go. Emotional Support Dogs work to provide comfort to people they live with who are suffering from mental health concerns. Therapy Dogs provide comfort to many different people in many different settings. All are superstars, but only Assistance Dogs have protected access guaranteed by the ADA.
All types of dogs can be Assistance Dogs, and they work in just about every country around the world. If a dog has the right temperament and training, she can become a canine superhero, helping people with disabilities to live their lives with more freedom and security. Throughout Service Dog Month, we recognize all the devoted, hardworking Assistance Dogs who transform the lives of their human partners.