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Types of Service Dogs

Updated on September 10, 2016
Doug and Lucky
Doug and Lucky

Dogs are simply fascinating creatures. I have always amazed at how we can train a dog to help someone with a disability. They allow disabled people to get out of an otherwise isolated existence. They can help answer phones, open door and even sense when someone is about to have a seizure warning the handler to get ready.

There is a difference between a 'service dog' and a 'therapy dog'. There exists a Federal law that states a service animal is not a pet. A service animal is any animal that has been trained to provide assistance for the benefit of a person with physical or mental disability. States have their own laws that add more detail to the Federal definition.

A Therapy animal is a dog trained to provide comfort to people in hospitals, nursing homes, mental institutions, etc. The therapy animal is usually the personal pet of the handler.

The handler of a Service animal is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. So it is actually the handler that has special rights not the dog. The service dog is allowed into places because of the handler being disabled somehow. This allows the handler to take the dog into restaurants or other public places that a dog is normally not allowed.

Guide Dog - This is strictly a dog that assists someone with visual loss either partially or fully.

Mobility Dog = this type of service dog will open doors, pickup phones, pickup items or whatever the handler needs are. In addition the mobility dog may assist in walking or balancing.

Hearing Alert Dog - This service dog is assigned to people with hearing loss.

Medical Alert Dog - This service dog will alert an oncoming condition like stroke, heart attack, anxiety attack or post traumatic stress disorder.

Seizure Alert Dog (Medical Alert Dog) - These service dogs can tell when their handler is about to have a seizure and are trained to either 'get help' or stay with the handler till help arrives.

Autism Service Dog - These service dogs alert the handler of certain behaviors. Psychological service dogs are a super group of these dogs.

All dogs provide some therapeutic benefits just being dogs. These working dogs however do a great service for their handlers and the rest of us. Providing help and warning to their handlers so that someone with a disability can get out and live life.


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    • datahound profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from USA


      Thanks for sharing that. We occasionally take our dogs (that are not anywhere near therapy dogs) to see my mother-in-law at the nursing home. Everyone does light up a bit.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I did work as socializing dogs in nursing homes for Canine Partners for Life in PA a number of years ago when I lived there. It was such a rewarding experience to see the joy on the older folks' faces when "their" dog was in the house!


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