• Cierra Voelkl

So What Are the Types of Service Dogs?

Updated: Sep 2


First off, I want to get something straight. There is a difference between service dogs, emotional support animals, and therapy dogs. The infographic below outlines the differences between the three types in regard to their protection, public access, and tasks.


In the past, service dogs only referred to guide dogs and hearing dogs for the hearing impaired and while this may be the case in some countries, this has drastically changed in the U.S as the need and support for service dogs for all disabilities have become more known. Also, has a public service announcement, not all disabilities or needs for service dogs are visible. So let’s go ahead and outline the different types of service dogs and exactly what they do.

1. Autism Support Dogs

Autism Support Dogs are especially helpful with children because they are often still learning and in the beginning stages of therapy. First off, children with autism have a natural tendency to wander which is especially dangerous as they don’t necessarily understand certain dangers in the world such as cars in the street. These support dogs are taught to be able to locate a wandering child and lead the parents to them. They are also a preventative measure while in public as the child can be tethered to the dog while the parent controls the dog. Autism support dogs can also help prevent or decrease certain repetitive behaviors by either going off of the parent’s command or by recognizing said behavior. The dog might put a paw on the child or nudge them to help get them to stop. Along with the repetitive behaviors, they can calm and prevent meltdowns as children with autism are a lot more prone to them. This is done by providing calming and comforting interactions to the child including applying deep pressure therapy by laying across the child.

2. Mobility Assistance Dogs

Mobility assistance dogs do just that: they help those who have mobility issues and are one of the more known about service dogs next to guide dogs. These pups are able to assist with a variety of tasks including hitting the button for automatic doors, bringing-out-of-reach items, picking up dropped items, and more. But this isn't all. They can physically assist those who suffer from balance and strength issues but are ambulatory by being a brace for them.


Photo Credit: Smoky Mountain Service Dogs

3. Guide Dogs

These guys are probably the most recognized service dog and often the first thing people think of with the term. Guide dogs help those who are legally blind or seeing impaired. They assist their handlers in getting them to their destination safely and around obstacles but it is up to the handler to lead the direction they are going in.


Photo Credit: Glassdoor

4. Diabetic Alert Dogs

Not as commonly known as others, diabetic alert dogs are trained to alert their handlers of low or high glucose levels before it turns dangerous and handlers are able to take the proper medication or level our their glucose. They are able to do this by reacting to the chemical change that is produced by blood sugar highs and lows.

5.Allergy Detection Dogs

No matter what causes it, allergies can range from a stuffy nose to fatal reactions. A newer phenomenon has come about to assist those with more critical allergies when out and about. These dogs are trained to use their unbelievable sense of smell to detect deadly allergens even in the smallest of quantities and alert their handler. This has often been more used with children in school who aren't necessarily capable of avoiding their allergy on their own.

Photo Credit: Today Show

6.Hearing-impaired Assistance Dogs

A service dog to alert and assist someone who is deaf or hearing impaired can greatly improve that person's life. Some events that the dog can alert is a smoke detector, door knock, phone ringing, and just overall sound awareness.

7. Psychiatric Dogs

This is not to be confused with an emotional support animal or therapy dog. Psychiatric service dogs assist those with mental health issues requiring assistance such as PTSD, extreme anxiety, and more. These are often extremely beneficial to veterans who suffer from PTSD after their deployment and can greatly improve someone's mental health.


Photo Credit: American Kennel Club

8.FASD Assistance

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder is the result of being exposed to drugs or alcohol prenatally and can leave the sufferers with life long neurological, behavior, and emotional impairments. These dogs have a very similar job as autism assistance dogs as they help with sensory overload, safety, improve communication and social skills, calming, stability, and empathy.

9. Seizure Alert Dogs

Those who have a seizure disorder can easily suffer injuries due to unexpected seizures. The dogs who assist them are trained to alert the handler, family, or those around them to an incoming seizure to allow the handler to get into a safe space such as laying on a bed.

10. Seizure Response Dogs

Unlike seizure alert dogs, response dogs are trained to go one step further and physically assist their handler during a seizure. This can be placing themselves under the handler's head, help break the fall or pushing against the handler to help prevent injury. But a response dog can still be an alert dog as well.


Photo Credit: America’s VetDogs

Remember, not all illnesses and disabilities are visible to the naked eye.


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