The 5 Types of Service Dogs

Service dogs have become an invaluable part of our society, by helping people with different types of disabilities live independently and by assisting them in various tasks. These dogs must have near-perfect temperaments, so they're never startled or distracted in a way that they're prevented from doing their duties. This requires extensive training for both the dog and the owner.

1. Guide Dogs

Guide dogs, also known as "seeing-eye dogs," are the most well-known service dog. They assist owners with partial or complete loss of eyesight to navigate streets, public places and even their homes. They literally must be their owner's eyes, navigating sidewalks, avoiding traffic and watching out for anything that may cause their owner to trip or bump his head.

These dogs are usually outfitted with a harness that includes a handlebar at a height comfortable for the owner, who holds onto it while the dog guides him wherever he wants to go. He must be able to completely ignore all distractions, such as other dogs, squirrels, loud noises and people who want to pet him, and he must have no fears.

2. Signal Dogs

Signal dogs, or hearing dogs, are trained to alert people with partial or complete hearing loss of any noises that may pertain to their everyday life. They must be able to recognize the phone, doorbell, smoke alarms, crying babies and any other noise that may be important to the owner.

They then must be able to signal the owner differently, depending on the noise. This can include bringing an object to the owner or pulling the owner to a different location where he can properly handle the situation.

3. Mobility Dogs

Mobility dogs assist their owners in tasks they may not be able to physically undertake themselves, such as turning lights on and off, retrieving items, opening doors and pushing buttons. These dogs are assigned to owners with different levels of physical abilities and may be required to help them walk, balance or move from one place to another, such as from a wheelchair to a house chair.

4. Medical Alert Dogs

Medical alert dogs are trained to recognize precursors to certain medical conditions, so they can alert their owner of oncoming problems, such as seizures, stroke, heart attack, diabetic complications and anxiety or panic attacks.

These dogs are assigned to people with chronic health conditions who may live alone and have trouble monitoring those conditions. In order to maintain their independence, they acquire dogs trained to recognize scents or other subtle signals that predict an upcoming attack.

5. Psychiatric Assistance Dogs

It has long been known that dogs can reduce our stress and make us feel better. Now, studies have proven what we already knew. Petting a dog can reduce blood pressure, calm a panic attack and help an autistic child communicate. Because of this, psychiatric assistance dogs are now gaining popularity.

Psychiatric assistance dogs can predict upcoming panic attacks, reduce symptoms in clinically depressed owners and alert autistic people to certain behaviors in order to help them reduce those behaviors.

Service dogs have a variety of uses, and become invaluable to the owners they're trained to help.