The Three Types of Assistance Dogs

Assistance dogs greatly enhance the lives of their new owners by providing a broader sense of freedom and independence. Assistance or service dogs may come from animal shelters or special breeding programs in which volunteers care for them until they are old enough for formal training to begin.

Guide Dogs for the Blind and the Visually Impaired

  • These assistance dogs help avoid obstacles, stop at curbs and step and negotiate traffic for their visually impaired handler. The handler's role is to provide voice commands to direct the dog. Guide dogs are outfitted with u-shaped handled harnesses.
  • Hearing Dogs for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
  • Hearing dogs will alert their deaf handler of door bells or knocks, alarm clocks, oven timers, telephone rings, smoke alarms, a baby crying and a number of other household type sounds. These type of assistance dogs are trained to lead their handler to the source of the sound. Hearing dogs are outfitted with orange collars, leashes and vests.

Service Dogs for People with Other Disabilities

These service dogs undergo specialized training to help mitigate a wide variety of disabilities. They're trained to work with power or manual wheelchairs, people with balance issues, people needing seizure alert or response and other medical issues. The special training includes retrieving objects, pulling wheelchairs, opening and closing doors, turning light switches on and off, assisting ambulatory persons to walk by, and providing balance and counterbalance.