Service Dogs


Different Types Of Service Dogs You May Not Know About

When most people think of dogs, they usually attribute them to being pets. However, there are many breeds of dogs that make great service animals as well. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, a service animal is defined as any dog that is specifically trained to perform tasks for a disabled individual. These disabilities include physical, intellectual, mental, sensory, or psychiatric. This article will discuss the various breeds of service dogs, the important services they can provide, and what breeds of dogs are best suited for specific services.  

Guide Dogs 

These dogs are specifically trained to lead blind or visually impaired individuals around obstacles or other people. Often referred to as “Dog Guides” these carefully trained dogs work with their owners through both verbal and hand signals to collaboratively navigate through public places. Essentially the dogs senses of hearing and smell help make up the difference for the owners lack of vision. The most common breeds for this vital job include Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds due to their intelligence, loyalty, and calm demeanor.  To learn more about guide dogs for the blind, check out the official website 

Hearing Dogs

Contrary to guide dogs assisting the blind and visually impaired, hearing dogs are specifically selected and trained service dogs that assist people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Hearing dogs are trained to alert their owners to common sounds such as smoke alarms, doorbells, telephones, alarm clocks, etc. Hearing dogs communicate with their owners through physical contact such as nudging or pawing them to get their attention. Owners of hearing dogs can ascertain a great deal of information about their surroundings by observing their hearing dogs’ cues as they are trained to pick up specific sounds of danger or hazards and ignore everyday ambient sounds that pose no threat to their owner. Some of the best breeds for hearing dogs are Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Poodles as they are naturally attentive to sound, friendly, people-oriented, and possess a calm temperament. 

Mobility Assistance Dogs

As the name suggests, these service dogs are specifically trained to aid and assist physically disabled individuals who have difficulty getting around by themselves. From people with severely poor balance to those that are wheelchair bound, these service dogs act as their support system by helping with everyday tasks such as picking up/retrieving out-of-reach objects, opening or closing doors, turning light switches on or off, and even assisting in public transportation accessibility. Similar to the Guide and Hearing Dogs, the best breeds of dogs for Mobility Assistance include Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Standard Poodles. These breeds of dogs are intelligent, loyal, obedient, and are more physically capable to push and pull those that are wheelchair bound.

Psychiatric Service Dogs 

Known as PSD’s, these dogs are trained to work with people who have learning disabilities and mental illnesses. These disabilities include Autism, clinical depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Anxiety disorders, Bi-polar disorders, Post-traumatic stress disorder, and Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorders. The key difference between a PSD and a Emotional Support Animal, or ESA, is that a PSD is specifically trained to perform tasks that help with it’s owners disability. For example, a PSD can help with their owner’s OCD by interrupting or redirecting their compulsive and self destructive behaviors to more productive and healthy behaviors. Some of the best dog breeds for PSD’s include Standard Poodle, Havanese, Miniature Schnauzer, and Labrador Retriever. These dog breeds are ideal candidates for PSD’s due to their affectionate disposition, easy-to-train personalities, and high levels of intelligence.  

Seizure Response Dogs

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, a seizure dog is a type of service dog that is specifically trained to respond to a seizure in someone who has epilepsy. The duties of a seizure dog include barking or otherwise alerting someone when their owner is having a seizure, lying next to their owner while they are having a seizure to prevent injury, retrieving medication when their owner is having a seizure,  and even putting their body between the seizing individual and the floor to help break the fall at the start of a seizure. Some of the most common breeds of seizure response dogs include Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Collies, Newfoundlands, and German Shepherds. Retrievers and Collies are very perceptive of their surroundings and their owners, making them excellent seizure response dogs. German Shepherds have a keen sense of smell and can actually smell the chemical imbalance in their owners before they have a seizure. Newfoundlands have a larger frame, making them ideal for breaking their owners’ fall at the beginning of a seizure. 

Trusted Companions

There are many different types of service dogs out there, each providing a unique and important role to their owners and their families. To many people these are just animals, but to their owners they are an essential part of their everyday support system. It’s no coincidence that dogs are able to fulfill all of these occupations as they are reliable, loyal, and intelligent creatures. It’s true that dogs make great pets, however, they also make even better companions for people with physical, mental, intellectual, sensory, and psychiatric disabilities. There are few, if any, other domesticated animals that can provide the unique skill sets and services that service dogs offer which is why they deserve our respect and admiration. I hope this article helped shed some light on the importance of service dogs and how essential they are to their owners and our communities. Be sure to check out our other article, Veteran’s Day, to learn more about other types of service dogs (military) .