It seems more common than ever to see dogs strolling through stores with their human companions. Many of these pups are family pets that owners seemingly want to have close by at all times, but quite often the dogs people encounter in businesses and around neighborhoods are assistance dogs.
Service dogs assist their owners in various ways. Highly trained, these animals work with people who have psychiatric or physical disabilities, and ensure people can get through each day safely and comfortably. According to the organization Paws With a Cause, assistance dogs can help open doors, pull a wheelchair, alert individuals to sounds, pick up objects, or even detect the onset of seizures or other health effects. Service Dog Central estimates there are anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 registered service dogs in the United States.
The Americans With Disabilities Act dictates that service dogs have a legal right to enter all public spaces. This differs from emotional support animals, which may not have the same level of free access as service animals because ESAs are not as specially trained as service animals. Here’s a look at some different types of assistance dogs and the tasks they can perform.
· Guide dog: A guide dog was one of the first service animals on record. Standardized guide dog training can be traced to the 1700s. Guide dogs assist people who are visually impaired. They help their handlers get around in public. Guide dogs have the unique skills to accept commands but also make choices based on situational assessments.
· Seizure alert dogs: Dogs have an amazing ability to tune into changes in human behavior. Seizure alert dogs can recognize often elusive signs that a seizure is imminent, helping their handlers with epilepsy get into safe positions. These dogs also are capable of alerting others that their owners need help.
· Diabetic alert dog: Dogs’ olfactory receptors are more abundant than humans’ – roughly 300 million compared to the six million human beings have. Some dogs can smell things like chemical changes in the body, including changes in blood sugar, which helps people with diabetes avoid critical drops.
· Hearing dogs: Hearing dogs serve as ears for people who cannot hear. They are trained to alert their handlers to doorbells, knocks, fire alarms, crying babies, and much more.
· Mobility assistance dogs: Service dogs can fill the void for individuals who do not walk or have other impairments. They may bring objects to their owner, like phones or utensils. They also may help move wheelchairs or provide support while getting around.
· Psychiatric support dogs: Individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, or other psychiatric conditions can benefit from psychiatric support dogs that provide comfort and perform tasks that make handlers feel safe and secure.
Assistance animals play vital roles in their handlers’ lives.