October 4, 2009

Types of Service Dogs

This is off the topic of diabetes, but necessary to be grounded in the subject of assistance/service dogs of which diabetes service dogs are an integral part.

Assistance Dogs International Inc. (ADI) uses a simplified definition, listing guide dogs for the sight impaired, hearing dogs for the hearing impaired and service dogs for other disabilities.  While guide dogs have a 70-year history and hearing dogs a shorter history, other service dogs are a recent development and have not gained the recognition in numbers to be in a class by themselves.

Please take time to browse their complete site.  It has much valuable information for determining whether you are being given the correct guidelines for training and the essentials for measuring the training your dog needs to be an excellent assistance/service dog.

Now, service dogs for other disabilities will take up the rest of the discussion.  There needs to be a list of these service dog types for medical or health related disabilities.  Standards may be developed for all these types or for each type of service dog.  Service dogs for disabilities are covered by Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Please note that Therapy Dogs, Search & Rescue Dogs, Forensic Dogs, Police K-9's, Military Working Dogs and other types of working dogs are NOT Service Dogs.  This may be what ADI is referring to for facility and therapy dogs for which currently do not have standards established.  

Liz Norris of Pawsabilities Unleased has a list of eight types and some of the tasks they can be trained to accomplish.  The US Service Dog Registry lists 13 types of service dogs in addition to guide and hearing.  Not mentioned in either list is service dogs trained for cancer, strokes, and migraines.  More types are being added regularly and many service dogs are trained for multiple disorders in their human partners.

The latest type of service dogs added is for soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  This project is part of a study funded entirely but the Department of Defense and put service dogs with 10 soldiers.  The other type recently added is a service dog for autonomic neuropathy.  Autonomic neuropathy is a disease that damages the autonomic nervous system, a branch of the central nervous that helps people adapt to changes in their environment, according to the American Heart Association. 

Today only 0.9% of persons with disabilities have service dog partners.  This means that there are approximately 15,000 service dogs across the U.S.  These dogs have a significant influence on their human partners' lives and are able to function more independently with the help of their canine partners.