What do service dogs do?
You might think of a guide dog leading a blind person or an emotional support dog to help someone with PTSD.
But service dogs can handle a variety of tasks and help with many different conditions. People with physical, emotional, and psychological needs can benefit from a support dog.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service animal as one that receives training to do a specific task for someone with a disability. Animals used for emotional support, companionship, and other comfort tasks aren’t covered under the ADA, but they’re still often grouped in with service animals.
Keep reading to learn what service dogs can do for their owners.
Some service dogs detect certain medical conditions, including seizures and low blood sugar, before they happen. The dog warns his owner that the medical event is about to happen.
Early warning can allow the owner to take action, such as moving to a safe location to avoid getting hurt during the seizure. The dog also stays next to the owner during the seizure.
For someone with diabetes, the service dog can smell the changes in scent that come with high or low blood sugar. The dog gives the owner a signal that alerts them to check their blood sugar. The owner can then administer insulin or take glucose to correct the blood sugar issues.
People who are in wheelchairs or have other physical limitations may need help with basic tasks. A dog can be trained to do those things for the owner.
Tasks might include:
The physical assistance gives people with physical limitations more independence. They may be able to stay in their own homes for longer with help from the service dog.
If the owner needs help, the service dog will go alert someone. This might happen after a medical episode, such as a seizure.
The dog alerts other people of the situation and leads them back to their owner. Barking is commonly used to get help for the owner. Dogs may also be trained to hit an alert button if the owner needs help.
Having a dog to seek help can help save the owner’s life. A fast response time is crucial for many medical events. A dog that seeks help immediately can ensure the owner gets that assistance quickly.
Some people have balance issues requiring a little extra support. A service dog can provide balance support. This helps the owner stay steady and can prevent falls.
Dogs trained for this purpose learn how to brace and keep secure footing to provide better support.
Service dogs provide companionship for their owners, which can have a very positive effect. Lonely seniors may feel less lonely or depressed with a pet, and it may cut down on stress or help lower blood pressure.
The service animal is always there, which can give the person a sense of confidence. Dogs are sometimes trained to remind their owners to take care of themselves, which can help them stay healthier.
People who are blind may have guide dogs to help them navigate different areas. These dogs usually wear special harnesses that have handles to better guide the owner.
They help them safely cross the street and avoid running into things. They help their owners know where there are stairs or curbs, and they help them navigate through crowds.
Guide dogs may also help their owners find certain things. They might help the find a door, mailbox, elevator, or bus stop.
A service dog may act as the ears for someone who’s deaf. The dog might alert his owner of sounds such as the doorbell, phone, or fire alarm. The dog also leads the person to the source of the sound.
When in public, the dog knows how to block out ambient sounds that don’t pose a threat. The dog tunes into sounds that could signal danger, such as an approaching vehicle while crossing the street.
Service dogs often help people with psychiatric support needs. They can help people who have anxiety or depression.
Caring for the dog can help ease those feelings since the service dog needs to go outside to go to the bathroom and get exercise. This forces the owner to get out of the house when they might otherwise want to stay in bed. Seeing other people and getting fresh air can help the person feel better.
If the owner has PTSD, an anxiety service dog may help the person feel more at ease in various situations. The dog might scope out the situation by entering the home first. In public, the dog creates a larger barrier around the owner to keep them from feeling overwhelmed.
People who have panic attacks or anxiety attacks, the dog can be a calming force. The tactile stimulation can help ease the attack.
For someone who has OCD, the dog can interrupt those behaviors. This can help redirect the owner.
People on the autism spectrum can benefit socially and emotionally from having a service dog. The dog can work as a connection between the person and others, allowing them to interact in social situations.
The dog gives the person a sense of familiarity and comfort in various situations.
Service dogs can also help keep people with autism safe. They can alert them of fire alarms and other dangerous situations.
They may also receive training to keep the person from running away. If the person does sneak away, the dog may be able to track them down.
Food allergies can be deadly, and kids, in particular, may not always recognize dangers from foods. An allergy dog can sniff out the ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction, such as peanuts or gluten, and warn the person. This can keep someone from eating something that could cause serious health problems.
There’s no easy answer to what do service dogs do. Each dog undergoes special training to help with a certain need, whether that’s a physical, emotional, or psychological need.
No matter what the purpose, a service dog can make a significant difference for his owner. Browse our articles for more great information and stories.
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