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Types of Service Dogs

Psychiatric Service Dogs

  

Psychiatric Service Dogs can help with severe depression, anxiety, phobias, and panic attacks, whether or not these conditions are associated with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder,Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Tourette's Syndrome, Dementia, Schizophrenia, or other conditions. 


A Psychiatric Service Dog  can help: 

  • Remind the handler to take medication.
  • Remind the handler to perform her or his daily routines.
  • Wake the handler to prevent him or her from sleeping too much.
  • Assist handler in creating a safe personal space in public, serving as a physical buffer to calm handler and reduce feelings of emotional distress in crowded places.
  • Reorient and "ground" handler to current place and time when struggling with PTSD episodes.
  • During a panic attack, a psychiatric service dog can assist the handler by providing tactile stimulation.


In addition to aiding with clinical symptoms, these service dogs can help with more general symptoms. The dogs can:

  • Assist the handler when he or she tries to relax (self-soothe) in order to complete uncomfortable tasks.
  • Accompany while in stores and other environments to reduce stress associated with daily activities, as well as facilitate social interactions and reduce fear associated with meeting new people.
  • Alert when the handler is starting to experience anxiety problems reminding the handler to take his or her medication.
  • Remind the handler to take walks, which encourages the handler to be more social and increases the amount of exercise the handler gets. This also helps the handler keep a constant schedule and will be a reason to get out of bed in the morning.


 People with psychiatric service dogs often face several problems that other service dog handlers typically do not experience. While guide dogs for the blind and hearing-impaired and helper dogs for people who use wheelchairs are well-known to the public, dogs for psychiatric conditions are not. Further adding to this issue is that many people with psychiatric conditions do not appear to have anything externally wrong with them, and because of the heavy social stigma of mental illness, the handler may be reluctant to explain their condition or the dog's trained tasks even in the vaguest of terms. In addition, the dogs can be any size (even toy breeds) depending on their trained task, yet there is a common public misconception that all service dogs are medium or large breeds. Any of these issues can lead to other people inappropriately impugning the dog's status or pressing the handler to divulge medical information about themselves. 

Mobility Service Dog

 

A mobility assistance dog is a service dog trained to assist a physically disabled person who has mobility issues, such as wheelchair dependency or poor balance. Roles include "providing balance and stability" picking up and carrying objects. A mobility assistance dog can also be trained to open and close doors, and operate light switches, and can have a major positive impact on the lives of recipients.These dogs usually wear a special vest so that the owner can attach a cane-like handle. This allows the dog to guide the owner and assist with their balance.


Another type of mobility assistance dog task is that of a "walker dog". They are used for Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis patients, along with other disorders and conditions. These dogs are not canes, and the handler does not put full weight on them. However, the dog can greatly assist a person with their gait and balance while walking. This technique is usually called "counterbalance". It can also be helpful for those with symptoms of proprioceptive sensory loss, such as an inability to walk in a straight line.


Important tasks for Mobility Service Dogs (but not limited to):

  • Bring the phone
  • Retrieve dropped items
  • Turn lights on and off
  • Carry items in a dog backpack
  • Brace & counterbalance
  • Open doors in the home
  • Hit open doors buttons in public
  • Hit the elevator buttons
  • Assist with undressing by pulling on clothing
  • Open drawers and cabinets
  • Provide emotional and spiritual support
  • Pulling a wheelchair chair up inclines and ramps, and for short distances

Autism Service Dogs

 An autism service dog is a service dog trained to assist an autistic person to help them gain independence and the ability to perform activities of daily living similar to anyone else. For the most part, these dogs are trained to perform tasks similar to those of service dogs for other sensory processing disorders. 


 

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of discussing autism service dogs is how much variety there is in the tasks assigned to these workers. And although each assistance dog must be trained to work in tandem with its specific human partner, there is a bit more consistency in training traditional guide and service dogs than with autism service dogs whose duties may include (but not limited to):


  Keeping a child with autism from wandering or dangerous bolting: For many parents, the foremost concern regarding their child with autism is running away or bolting unexpectedly into dangerous environments, such as traffic. Often outings become difficult to physically manage with a child prone to wandering, especially if siblings are present as well. When used in this capacity, a service dog is often tethered in some way to the child, while the parent holds a leash. Some children will learn to hold a service dog’s harness and become reliable to not let go, although an adult still holds an additional leash. Dogs are then trained to stop or block a child’s movements. 


 Alerting parents to escape or injurious behaviors: Not only do many children with autism attempt to wander in public environments, often escape from the home is a problem as well. In this case, the autism service dog may become responsible for alerting parents or caretakers to successful, or even attempted, escapes. In addition, some dogs will alert whenever a child engages in certain dangerous activities, such as climbing onto furniture or window ledges. 


 Facilitating sensory integration, calming, deep pressure therapy: Parents of children with autism service dogs frequently comment on how much calmer their children are, and how much more manageable meltdowns are when the dog is present. For many families, this includes a positive change in sleeping behaviors on the part of the child. DBT is commonly used to bring children down from a potential meltdown


 Being fundamentally used for social support : For people utilizing assistance dogs for other disabilities, companionship and social support is a function that may be secondary to the specific tasks assigned to the dog. In the case of individuals with autism, however, social challenges are central to the disability. Service dogs can provide a level of comfort in social situations for these individuals, and perhaps more importantly, create a social conduit for interacting with other people.