Many dog people would say their canine companions are their best friends, but for a growing number of individuals with specific physical, neurological or mental health needs, different types of service dogs are also invaluable partners in day-to-day life. Legally, most of these types of service dogs are allowed in places where pet dogs are not. Unfortunately, the practice of non-disabled people passing off pet dogs as different types of service dogs has eroded the rights of real assistance dog handlers, especially those with invisible disabilities.
“Don’t make assumptions,” says Toni Eames, president of the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners. “If you see a person who can walk and talk, and they’re sighted, and they’re hearing, the dog may be alerting to diabetes or seizures.”
According to Eames, those tasks may be done by a breed who doesn’t fit the popular image of a service dog as a retriever or a German Shepherd Dog. As the list of what service dogs do grows, so does the diversity of service dog breeds helping disabled people.
Let’s take a look at 10 typesof service dogs, from the well-known to the newly developed:
1. Guide dogs
Assistance dogs who lead visually impaired and blind people around obstacles are one of the most commonly known types of service dogs. Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Lab/Golden hybrids are often dog breeds chosen as guide dogs, although other breeds, such asPoodles, can also be well suited to be this type of service dog.
According to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, guide dogs have been helping visually impaired people for centuries, and their use may date back to Roman times. Many laws and pieces of legislation regarding service animals were original written with an emphasis on guide dogs. While people often expect guide dogs and other assistance dogs to wear vests, the Americans With Disabilities Act does not require a vest, although they’ll often be wearing a special harness with a handle on it.
2. Hearing dogs
For people with hearing impairments, service dogs assist by alerting to noises such as alarms, doorbells or crying babies. When the dog hears the sound, they’ll touch their human and lead toward the noise.
Labradors and Golden Retrievers are dog breeds that are often selected as hearing dogs, but many other breeds, including Cocker Spaniels and Miniature Poodles, have been successfully trained to alert as a hearing dog. According to Assistance Dogs International, small-to-medium mixed breeds acquired from animal shelters are often trained as hearing dogs, with Terrier mixes, Poodles, Cockers, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzusand even Chihuahuas being selected for personality and temperament.
3. Mobility assistance dogs
These types of service dogs can perform a wide range of tasks for people with a wide range of mobility issues. According to Service Dogs of America,mobility assistance dogs can bring objects to people, press buttons on automatic doors, serve as a brace for people who are ambulatory or even help pull a wheelchair up a ramp. These dogs help people increase their independence and confidence.
People with spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, and arthritis are among those who benefit from a mobility assistance dog. While the dogs must be large enough to support their human partner, many different can be mobility assistance dogs.
4. Diabetic alert dogs
Also known as DADs, these service dogs can provide independence and security by alerting to chemical changes in blood sugar. The scent changes associated with hyperglycemic or hypoglycemic events in diabetics are imperceptible to humans, but not to dogs. These service dogs alert their people to blood sugar highs and lows before the levels become dangerous.
When a diabetic alert dog alerts, his human knows to test his blood. Then he or she can inject insulin or ingest a dose of glucose before his blood level gets dangerous. Many of these dogs are trained to alert others in the household or set off an alarm system if their human needs medical help.
5. Seizure alert dogs
Seizure alert dogs are one of the controversial types of service dog. They react with a specific type of behavior right before her human has a seizure. The ability to alert to seizures seems to be a natural ability for a small number of dogs, although some neurology experts say there is no reliable evidence to suggest that dogs can reliably predict seizures.
On the other hand, many patients, families and trainers insist their dogs do accurately predict and alert to oncoming seizures, and stories about pet dogs who alert without training have received a lot of media attention. Some epilepsy organizations, like the BC Epilepsy Society, state that it’s not possible for dogs to be trained to alert to seizures, but some dog training agencies (including UK-based Support Dogs and 4 Paws For Ability in the U.S.) say it is possible to train a dog to alert.
6. Seizure response dogs
Not to be confused with seizure alert dogs, seizure response dogs provide help to a person experiencing an epileptic seizure. These dogs bark for help or to press an alarm system during a person’s seizure. They can also get a person out of an unsafe place. And may bring medicine or a phone to a person who is coming out of a seizure.
7. Psychiatric service dogs
These types of service dogs assist people who are suffering from issues like depression, anxiety and most often post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD can afflict people after they’ve served in combat, worked as a first responder, or experienced abuse, natural disasters, terrorism and other life-altering events, such as car crashes.
The human handlers in this category can feel hyper vigilant about their safety, and service dogs can make them feel safer by doing things like entering the home before the human, and turning on the lights with a foot pedal. These dogs can also help PTSD sufferers who feel overwhelmed in public places by creating a physical barrier between the handler and others, giving the handler more personal space. Many PTSD sufferers find that having a service dog to care for forces the human to also take care of themselves, by getting out into the world and getting exercise with their dog.
8. Autism support dogs
For kids on the autism spectrum, these dogs provide a sense of predictability as the children navigate social settings. The dogs can be a big help for kids who have trouble connecting with classmates. The canine acts as an icebreaker in social situations. They improve the child’s quality of life by reducing isolation and comforting the child in stressful times. These dogs are also trained to keep children from running away and can track children if they do run off.
9. FASD service dogs
An emerging category of service dog, these dogs support children who were exposed to alcohol prenatally, and have been diagnosed with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). These children may have physical and mental difficulties, as well as behavioral problems and learning disabilities. According 4 Paws for Ability, FASD dogs are trained similarly to autism service dogs. They can also be trained to interrupt a repetitive behavior.
10. Allergy detection dogs
With the rise in food allergies has come another type of medical service dog. Allergy detection dogs are trained to sniff out and alert to the odor of things such as peanuts or gluten. Often partnered with children, allergy detection dogs can be trained to alert to allergy-inducing smells at school. Allergy detection dogs provide kids with a greater sense of independence and giving their parents a greater sense of security. While it’s clear that some dogs can be successfully trained to alert for allergies, this category of service dog attracted negative attention when some parents said they paid for dogs that couldn’t care less about a deadly peanut.
Other kinds of working dogs, including therapy dogs and emotional support dogs, are not classified as types of service dogs as they’re not trained to perform a specific task to help their handlers. In most jurisdictions, these kinds of dogs are not afforded the same privileges as service dogs.
Thumbnail:Photography by Chuck Wagner / Shutterstock.
This piece was originally published in 2015.
About the author
Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but the addition of a second cat, Specter, and the dog duo of GhostBuster and Marshmallow make her fur family complete. Sixteen paws is definitely enough. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook, and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter.
Read more about service dogs and types of service dogs:
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What is the most common type of service dog? ›
Perhaps the most commonly-known type of service dogs, guide dogs help blind and low-vision individuals navigate the world. These dogs typically wear a special harness with a handle for their owner to grasp, rather than a vest.What are the different categories of helping dogs? ›
A) Domestic dogs, service dogs & seizure dogs.What's the best service dog? ›
Both golden and Labrador retrievers make great service dogs. In fact, retrievers are the most common breeds trained for service work, with Labs slightly outnumbering golden retrievers. People love how friendly and loving these dogs are and how well they get along with people and other animals.What is a Level 5 service dog? ›
Dog is trained to provide deep pressure therapy during a panic attack. Precise behavior at such a time may be dictated by dog's size, preference and partner's location. Dog must be trained to promptly get Off the person on command.What is the least common service dog? ›
- #1. Samoyeds. Samoyeds are dependable, sturdy dogs that crave companionship. ...
- #2. Border Collies. One of the best dog breeds for children, Border Collies are reliable, energetic, and protective. ...
- #3. Pomeranians. ...
- #4. Cocker Spaniels. ...
- #5. Old English Sheepdogs.
Dogs are sensitive and attentive – often they see a panic attack coming before their human partners do. So we teach the dog to react to those signs, to tell their human, “Hey, I'm here, it's ok, let's go for a walk or you should pet me, let's stay in the present.” That's an anxiety alert.What dog is best for PTSD? ›
Ideal for emotional support work, Goldens can also handle a great deal of physical work. From fetching medication and minimizing flashbacks to general companionship, Golden retrievers tend to be the go-to breed for PTSD service dogs for veterans.
Can you have a service animal for panic disorder? Absolutely, yes. Service dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support animals are trained to assist in the activities of daily living for those who have one or more mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.What is a Level 3 dog? ›
Level 3 Dogs (Timid)
Level three dogs tend to be shy and may need more time to figure out new surroundings and new people though they enjoy the company of humans. They may come from homes where they were not socialized well with people and other animals.
- Guiding the blind.
- Alerting the deaf to noises.
- Pulling a wheelchair.
- Retrieving items.
- Alerting to seizures or diabetes attacks.
- Reminding persons to take prescribed medication.
- Calming people with PTSD during anxiety attacks.
What breeds Cannot be service dogs? ›
Any breed of dog can be a service animal, assuming the dog has been individually trained to assist an individual with a disability with specific tasks. Just like all dogs, service animals come in every shape and size.What are the best service dogs for depression? ›
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
- Standard Poodle.
- Labrador Retriever.
- Yorkshire Terrier.
- Border Collie.
Actually, the ADA states that your dog does not need any special equipment at all. The color service dog vest you choose is up to you. Some may want to choose the traditional red or blue vest, others the brighter orange or raspberry, some may want to choose a patriotic camouflage color.What is a Level 1 dog? ›
Level 1 – Dog and Handler must be able to successfully:
Walk on a loose leash. Walk on a loose leash past another dog 10 feet with no lunging or barking. Sit and down on side of hander in heel position. Work in a controlled manner around other dogs. Come Reliably including collar grab when owner calls by name.
Any breed or size of dog can register as a service dog.What do PTSD service dogs do? ›
Alongside therapy, service dogs can aid in someone's recovery from PTSD. By performing specific tasks that help their handlers deal with their symptoms and triggers, service dogs can reduce anxiety, increase serotonin, and lower blood pressure. PTSD service dogs also provide companionship and comfort to their handlers.What age are most service dogs? ›
- Age 0–2 A service dog spends the first two years of its life being trained to help.
- Age 2–10 The average service dog works for eight years. It picks up items, opens doors, and more.
- From age 10 on The dog retires from service. It spends its time as a pet.
Technically, a dog of any breed can be a service dog, though some breeds are more suited for service work than others. There is no one best breed for everyone. Different breeds may be better suited for individuals depending on what they need the dog to do, their personalities, where they live, and so on.What dogs are most used for service dogs? ›
Although the information in this series may be applicable to any breed or mixed breed, it will focus on the most commonly used breeds for service dog work: Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, Saint Bernards, Collies, and Cocker Spaniels.Why does my dog sniff my private area? ›
Key takeaway. Dogs sniff people's crotches because of the sweat glands, also known as apocrine glands, that are located there. Sniffing these glands gives a dog information about a person such as their age, sex, mood, and mating probability.
Why dogs should sleep in bed with you? ›
Many dog owners feel more secure and actually sleep better when snuggled next to their furry friends. Dogs tend to calm people and can lower blood pressure and stress levels. Dogs also provide a sense of safety.Do dogs pick up on owners anxiety? ›
Canines with anxious owners tend to be more anxious themselves. It's no great secret that dogs are sensitive to human emotions, but new research published this month in Nature Scientific Reports indicates that if an owner is chronically stressed, it can rub off on their dog as well.What breed of dog is best for anxiety and depression? ›
- Poodles. According to Stanley Coren's book The Intelligence of Dogs, poodles are the second most intelligent dogs after border collies. ...
- Golden Labradors. ...
- Chihuahuas. ...
- Yorkshire Terriers. ...
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. ...
- Pugs. ...
- Great Danes.
“They can sense when you're having a trigger (a PTSD episode) before you know you're triggering,” explained Denise Wenz, a Wisconsin National Guard veteran who trains the dogs. The dogs even can be trained to nibble at a veteran's feet when they begin having seizures or nightmares.What dogs need the most mental stimulation? ›
- Border Collie. This dog breed is brilliant, and it loves being active. ...
- Australian Shepherd. Australian shepherds are also very smart. ...
- Jack Russell Terrier. ...
- Dalmatian. ...
- Belgian Malinois. ...
- Boxer. ...
- Siberian Husky. ...
- Irish Setter.
- #1 – They're Being Carried or Pushed in a Cart. ...
- #2 – They're Not on a Leash. ...
- #3 – They're Pulling on the Leash. ...
- #4 – They're Barking or Whining. ...
- # 5 – They're Sniffing Everything. ...
- #6 – They Have Indoor “Accidents” ...
- #7 – They Steal Food. ...
- #8 – They Look Nervous.
The dog must be able to remain behaviorally stable in a wide range of environments; gentle and non-reactive (no barking, growling, etc.). The dog must be able to remain focused, quiet, and dutiful to its handler versus wandering or becoming distractible.What can you legally ask a person with a service animal? ›
A. In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform?What are the 3 ways your dog asks for help? ›
Generally, there are three primary ways that you can tell when a dog needs your help: physiological changes, behavioral changes, and signs of pain or discomfort.What are animals 5 basic needs? ›
The five basic needs of animals are food, water, shelter, space, and air. Food: What a living thing eats for energy. Habitat: A place where a plant or animal can get the food, water, and shelter it needs to live.
What are 3 things dogs need every day? ›
As the proud owner of a cuddly pup, you know that taking care of a fur companion is no small feat. You've got to keep their food bowl full, make sure they're drinking enough water, give them lots of love, and take them outside to do their business throughout the day. Find out 30 things your dog wants you to know.What is the 333 rule for dogs? ›
The 3-3-3 rule represents the phases of a rescue dog or common milestones your new dog or puppy will go through 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months after being adopted from a shelter. Your new dog will have unfamiliar surroundings and go through an adjustment period while settling into his new home.What is a red zone dog? ›
The term “Red Zone Dog” was made up by a TV personality to describe aggressive or reactive dogs, usually big strong ones. “Red Zone” implies danger.What is a Level 5 bite? ›
Level 4: One-four deep punctures from a single bite and lacerations or bruising from the dog holding on or shaking. Level 5: Multiple bite incident with more than 2 Level 4 bites. Level 6: Victim death.What tasks can service dogs do for anxiety? ›
- Tactile Stimulation. ...
- Deep Pressure Therapy. ...
- Find an Exit. ...
- Crowd Control. ...
- Obtaining Emergency Phones or Medication. ...
- Turning on the Lights. ...
- Performing Safety Checks. ...
- Hyper-Vigilance Reduction.
The most you could get out of DOJ's service animal definition is that either work or two tasks are required, but as we've seen, even that's not the case. (Note that not even one task is required if the dog is instead trained to do work.What tasks do service dogs perform for depression? ›
- remind you to take medication.
- bring you a phone during a crisis so you can contact support.
- call 911 or any other preprogrammed emergency number for help.
- identify and help with medication side effects.
The American Pit Bull (and all the Pitty breeds) can make excellent Service Dogs. However, like any other dog, early socialization, proper training, and positive reinforcement all work together to create a well-rounded canine. Service dogs are entitled to public access rights with their handler.Can a dog with a bite history be a service dog? ›
Most dog bites occur in high stress situations so, dogs that cannot learn appropriate ways to deal with stress don't get placed as service dogs. According to the ADA, a service animal is defined as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.How do I register my dog as a service dog for free? ›
At USA Service Dog Registration you simply register your animal for free and the handler and dog can be easily searched for verification purposes. Your profile can have photos of you and your support animal along with medical forms or training certifications to make it easy to access when needed.
What is the most emotional dog breed? ›
The Labrador Retriever is arguably the most empathic breed of dog, with an innate skill to know how their owners are feeling. They are gentle, friendly and eager to please. Anybody who has ever owned a Lab will know that they can make any situation seem slightly better.
A Word From Verywell. Not all disabilities are visible. Thankfully the ADA is inclusive of psychiatric service animals for people with mental health conditions. Service dogs for anxiety are just one example of how these specially trained animals can help disabled people.What color helps dogs with anxiety? ›
Blue and violet are also more emotionally calming and can help to reduce stress levels. These colors are preferable in the veterinary setting because they appear in lighter tones to animals and do not seem as abrasive as white or as dull as gray.What does purple mean on a service dog? ›
Blue – The dog is a service animal. It's training or working, so don't disturb it. White – The dog has difficulty hearing or seeing, or is completely blind/deaf. Purple – Don't feed anything to the dog.What does a purple service dog vest mean? ›
The ADA does not state that service dogs need vests in any particular color. There is no official guidance about what different colors mean when it comes to service dog vests. The most common colors are red and blue, or purple for purple heart veterans with PTSD.What dogs are most used for service dogs? ›
Although the information in this series may be applicable to any breed or mixed breed, it will focus on the most commonly used breeds for service dog work: Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, Saint Bernards, Collies, and Cocker Spaniels.What is the most common service animal? ›
Dogs are the most common service animals, assisting people in many different ways since at least 1927.What are the four types of service dogs? ›
There are 8 types of service dogs. Autism Service Dogs, Hearing Dogs, Diabetic Alert Dogs, Seizure Response Dogs, Guide Dogs, Allergy Detection Dogs, Mobility Assistance Dogs, and PTSD Service Dogs.Can you choose your breed of service dog? ›
Technically, a dog of any breed can be a service dog, though some breeds are more suited for service work than others. There is no one best breed for everyone. Different breeds may be better suited for individuals depending on what they need the dog to do, their personalities, where they live, and so on.What breeds Cannot be service dogs? ›
Any breed of dog can be a service animal, assuming the dog has been individually trained to assist an individual with a disability with specific tasks. Just like all dogs, service animals come in every shape and size.
How are service dogs chosen? ›
Assistance dogs are trained to help people with various physical and mental handicaps. These dogs are selected using a test comprising several behavioral components. Anecdotal reports have shown that only about 50% of the dogs so selected successfully complete training and become assistance dogs.What small dog makes the best service dog? ›
Some of the best small service dogs breeds are the Yorkshire Terrier, the Corgi, the Pug, the Poodle, and the Chihuahua. These doggies are easy-going, intelligent, with a friendly temperament, they can be easily held and petted. These canines can be easily trained and show great obedient skills when properly trained.Are there service dogs for anxiety? ›
Psychiatric service dogs (PSDs)
A psychiatric service dog (PSD) is a specific type of service animal trained to assist those with mental illnesses. These include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
- Guiding the blind.
- Alerting the deaf to noises.
- Pulling a wheelchair.
- Retrieving items.
- Alerting to seizures or diabetes attacks.
- Reminding persons to take prescribed medication.
- Calming people with PTSD during anxiety attacks.
AKC Groups: Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting, Herding.What is a Level 4 dog? ›
Level 4 Dogs
Level four dogs tend to be excitable and can have a very hard time calming down at times. Because of this, they can be more challenging to own and can have a lower tolerance to being restrained and hugged.
Can service animals be any breed of dog? A. Yes. The ADA does not restrict the type of dog breeds that can be service animals.Can two people have the same service dog? ›
Legally No, a service animal is a dog or miniature horse that is trained to do tasks that mitigate a individuals disability/disabilities. Not multiple people. The only time a second “handler” would be permitted is if the person that needed the service animal was incapable of handling the dog on their own.Is it better to have a male or female service dog? ›
Generally, both males and females make excellent service dogs. Some handlers prefer one gender over another, but the only time it really matters is if a larger dog is needed in order to perform weight-baring tasks. In cases like that, the boys tend to be a safer option.Can a pit bull be a service dog? ›
The American Pit Bull (and all the Pitty breeds) can make excellent Service Dogs. However, like any other dog, early socialization, proper training, and positive reinforcement all work together to create a well-rounded canine. Service dogs are entitled to public access rights with their handler.