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The term “Service Dog” and “Assistance Dog” are both terms that are heard on a pretty regular basis, but what do these terms actually refer to? In a general meaning, a service dog is a dog that is specifically trained to help a person with a specific need or a disability. These dogs are protected under the law by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to the Americans with Disabilities act service dogs are specifically defined as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities”. This often means that the dog is not a “pet” rather a trained dog that will assist their handler with something related to his/her disability.

What are the Types of Service Dogs?

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There are many different types of service dogs that are trained to serve multiple purposes. These are a few examples of service dogs:

Diabetes Service/assistance Dog: This is a dog who is trained to detect spikes or drops in blood sugar through scent and their owner’s actions. These dogs are able to alert their owner if their blood sugar is getting too high or too low.

Hearing Service Dogs: Hearing service dogs are most commonly used for people who are hearing impaired or deaf. They are literally their owner’s ears and will help them go places and alert them to what they cannot hear.

Mobility Service Dogs: These dogs are for people who have limited mobility or someone who might be wheelchair bound. They are trained to help them with their mobility and some dogs are trained to provide joint support.

Seizure Response/Service Dogs: This type of dog is trained to protect and help a person who is having a seizure and in some cases a dog can alert the person to a seizure before it happens.

Seeing Eye Dogs: These are one of the most well-known type of service dogs and they are guide dogs for people who are blind. They perform many different duties and act as their owners eyes.

Mental Health Service Dogs: Note that these dogs are different then Emotional Support Dogs, these dogs are trained to assist people with PTSD, Panic Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, and other major psychological disorders.

How to Behave around a Service Dogs?

Sometimes it is hard to know how to behave when you are around a working dog. The most well-meaning people can make simple mistakes when it comes to service dog etiquette. If a service dog tries to get your attention, follow them!

This is one of the most important rules when it comes to service dogs! These dogs are trained to react in an emergency situation, they may be trying to get help for their owner during a medical emergency.

The next best rule when it comes to service dogs is not to distract them. Many people will stop and want to pet a dog, but these dogs are working and should not be distracted.

Their work is critical to their owner’s health and well-being, it is hard for them to perform their job if someone is petting and talking to them. These two things are probably the most important behaviors to understand when you are around a service dog.

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Cathy D. Evans
Life-long fan of all dogs including Finnegan pictured here. He's a Chinook about a year old with the most wonderful personality. Please enjoy this dog website and its content. “Dogs don’t rationalize. They don’t hold anything against a person. They don’t see the outside of a human but the inside of a human.” —Cesar Millan (dog trainer)

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