We often consider our dogs as another member of our family or our best friends, but to many people with physical or mental disabilities and those who serve in the military or police force, they are much more. To these people, their dogs serve as a lifeline to safely get through their daily tasks. From helping police track down a lost child to alerting their deaf human of a smoke alarm going off, service dogs can be trained to help their human with a wide variety of different situations.
Guide dogs (or seeing eye dogs) are one of the most well-known types of service dogs. These dogs are trained to assist those who are visually impaired or blind in their daily lives. Getting around for these individuals can be very difficult, but with a guide dog by their side they can maneuver around obstacles and get to where they need to be safely. The human will provide the dog with directional commands and the dog will then ensure that this path is safe and lead them where they want to go.
People with hearing impairments can also benefit from the assistance of a service dog. Hearing dogs alert their humans when they hear sounds such as alarms, doorbells, or crying babies. Sounds like these can go completely unheard by those who are hard of hearing or deaf. The dog will then touch the human and lead them toward the noise so they can handle the situation appropriately.
Mobility Assistance Dogs
This type of service dog allows those with mobility issues to get around easier by pressing buttons on automatic doors, serving as a brace, or even pull their wheelchairs up ramps. Mobility dogs can be trained for people with several disabilities that include muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and Parkinson’s disease. Each dog’s set of tasks can be customized to help their human in whatever ways they need.
Medical Alert Dogs
There are several types of medical issues dogs can be trained to alert their human and those around them to in the event of an emergency. Seizures, diabetic and allergic reactions are just a few of the medical emergencies dogs can be trained to sense (in some cases even before they occur) to warn their human that they need to find medical assistance soon. Medical alert dogs can also be trained to retrieve medications or pick up the phone to allow the human to get the help they need.
Psychiatric Service Dogs
Dogs can also be trained to support those with mental disabilities. These dogs assist people who are suffering from issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A major problem those with PTSD deal with is hypervigilance. This causes the handler to be constantly afraid that there is an intruder in their home and cannot enter until they know it is safe. The trained dog will enter the home and search each room and alert them if there is an intruder.
Autism Support Dogs
Service dogs can also be partnered with people with autism to help them function in social settings. An autism service dog may guide their human away from an overstimulating situation or know to find a specific person or caregiver when they are over-stimulated. These dogs also help provide a sense of predictability to the person’s life and can be there to comfort their human in stressful times.
Police dogs are specifically trained to assist police officers in the line of duty. Like human officers, police dogs must graduate from a basic training academy to enter service. Police dogs learn several hand and verbal commands to help their human police officer with responsibilities such as searching for illegal drugs, explosives, crime scene evidence and tracking missing people. Upon completion of training, some police dogs will bark in an affirmation of the oath to serve and protect and will even be given their own badge.
Dogs have fought alongside US soldiers during every major conflict. Today there is around 2500 dogs actively serving with about 700 deployed overseas. Military dogs are highly trained to protect their entire squad and can detect enemy bombs and weapons more accurately than any available military equipment. Along with the use of their nose, military dogs are also taught to apprehend an enemy if commanded to attack. The dog will maintain its biting grip until being told to let go. There are many important qualities a military dog must possess to make it successfully through training and only around half make it into actual military service. Dog veterans often do not receive the recognition they deserve for their military service but are just as worthy to carry the title of an American hero.
While not everyone relies on their canine companion quite as much to get through the day, it is incredible to know just how much dogs can do to help their humans to perform everyday tasks. These hard-working dogs, who devote their lives to the protection and safety of those in need as well as military and law enforcement deserve to be recognized for all that they do.
Pet Strollers: Why Pet Parents Should Consider a Pet Stroller