National Guide and Service Dog Month

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Have you ever seen a service dog in public? It’s common to spot these dogs walking with their handlers; they wear a special vest explaining that they’re a working dog, not just a pet. But did you know that not all service dogs are alike?

There are several different types of service dogs and each one is trained to perform a specific function. Read on to learn about seven common types of service dogs and the services that each one performs. 

Guide Dogs/Seeing-Eye Dogs

Guide dogs help individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

The concept of guide dogs became popular after WWI, when Germany began using dogs to help German soldiers who had become blind during the war. The first guide dog school in the United States opened in 1929. Golden Retrievers or Labrador Retrievers are often used as guide dogs.

These trained dogs perform tasks such as leading their handler down the street and navigating any obstacles in the way. This type of service dog is not just for humans – sometimes dogs who are blind have their own seeing-eye dogs, too! 

Seizure Alert and Response Dogs

Seizure alert and response dogs often help people who have epilepsy or non-epileptic seizures.

Seizure alert dogs can detect when their handler is about to have a seizure – this is extremely helpful because it gives the person time to get to a safe place. While there’s some controversy around how dogs can accurately predict seizures, recent research has shown that dogs can detect seizures by smell.

Seizure response dogs perform a function that’s different, but just as helpful: They respond to their handler’s seizure and offer help. Some seizure response dogs might go get help. Others are trained to position themselves to break a fall. 

Hearing Dogs

Hearing dogs assist people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

These dogs can alert their owners to important sounds such as the doorbell ringing or a baby crying. Hearing dogs generally get their owners’ attention through physical touch, such as pawing at their leg, and may also lead their owners toward the sound.

Retrievers, poodles, and cocker spaniels are common breeds used as hearing dogs. They’re put through extensive audio response training before being matched with a handler in need of their services.

Autism Support Dogs

Autism service dogs help support a child or adult who has autism (an umbrella term for several conditions that create challenges around communication and social skills). Autism support dogs can help a person with autism feel less stressed, aiding them in social engagement, emotional growth, and even sensory support (sensory issues often accompany autism).

If a child has a service dog, the parents will generally be given instructions on how to work with their child’s service dog as well. For example, if a child is feeling stressed or anxious, a parent might command the dog to lie across the child’s lap to provide comfort and support.

Psychiatric Service Dogs

Psychiatric service dogs are meant to assist people who live with a mental disability (including conditions such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety). The tasks that a psychiatric service dog performs will vary based on its handler’s conditions and how those conditions affect daily life.

If someone lives with depression, their service dog might help retrieve medications or recognize the signs of a panic attack. A service dog for PTSD could provide helpful tactics such as making its handler feel safe in a large crowd. 

It’s also important to note that psychiatric service dogs are different from emotional support dogs (and different from therapy dogs, too). While emotional support dogs are very helpful in providing support for a range of similar conditions, emotional support dogs are not certified service dogs and do not have the same privileges as service dogs (such as being allowed in all businesses and stores).

Mobility Assistance Dogs

Mobility assistance dogs perform tasks for people who use a wheelchair or have other mobility issues. These dogs are typically big, strong breeds so they can brace or physically support their handler if needed.

They’re also trained to retrieve items for their handler. For example, when given a certain command or set of commands by his or her handler, a mobility assistance dog might go to the kitchen; open the fridge and take out a water bottle; and bring the object back to its owner. Mobility assistance dogs are expensive to train, but often restore independence to their handlers.

Diabetic Alert Dogs

If you have diabetes, a trained diabetic alert dog can notify you when your blood sugar gets too low or too high.

For someone with diabetes, low blood sugar and high blood sugar can both be extremely dangerous if not noticed and treated right away – this is how diabetic alert dogs can help. These trained dogs sense a change in their owner’s breath or sweat. Then they alert their owner so he or she can take appropriate measures to care for their blood sugar. 

As you can see, there are several different types of service dogs with each one being trained to perform a specific function. Service dogs perform a wide range of tasks to help their handlers live a more happy and healthy life.

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.