Service Dog Definitions

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Mobility assistance dog

A mobility assistance dog is a service dog trained to assist a physically disabled person. Among other tasks, they are commonly trained to pick up objects, open and close doors, and operate light switches. Some larger-statured dogs are trained to pull individuals in wheelchairs, and wear a type of harness specifically designed for pulling.

Another type of mobility assistance dog task is that of a "walker dog." They are commonly used for Parkinson's patients, along with post-injury recovering and other disorders and conditions. These "living canes" can greatly assist a person with their gait and balance while walking. Also, if their handler falls, the dog may be trained to act as a brace to help regain position.

As with other types of assistance dogs, in many countries disabled individuals have the right to bring their mobility assistance dog where in places animals are generally not allowed, such as public transportation, restaurants, and hotels. In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act is the law guaranteeing this right to disabled individuals. If access is denied to a disabled individual, federal and some state laws have heavy penalties that may be brought against the business denying access.

Psychiatric service dog

A psychiatric service dog is a specific type of service dog trained to assist their handler with a psychiatric disability, such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, or schizophrenia. Although assistance dogs classically help with physical disabilities, there are a wide range of psychiatric issues that an assistance dog may be able to help with as well.


Like all assistance dogs, a psychiatric service dog is individually trained to perform tasks particular to their handler's disability. Generally, the majority of the dogs' work is to provide environmental assessment, in such cases as paranoia or hallucinations, or "alerting" behaviors, such as interrupting repetitive or injurious behaviors or reminding the handler to take medication. The dogs may also be trained in physical tasks, such as retrieving objects, guiding the handler from stressful situations, or acting as a brace if the handler becomes dizzy.[1] [2]

Psychiatric service dogs may be of any breed or size suitable for public work. The majority of psychiatric service dogs are trained by the person who will become the handler- usually with the help of a professional trainer. However, assistance dog organizations are increasingly recognizing the need for dogs to help individuals with psychiatric disabilities.


In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act defines a disability as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual," and therefore allows handlers of psychiatric service dogs the same rights and protections afforded to those with other types of service animals.[5] The Fair Housing Act also allows tenants that have service animals or emotional support animals to stay in housing that has a "No Pets" policy. Note: Some individual state laws may also provide additional guidelines or protection.

Service dog

A service dog is a type of assistance dog, specifically trained to help people who have disability or disabilities other than visual impairmentor hearing impairment, or medical response. Service dogs are sometimes trained and bred by private organizations. In other cases, a disabled handler may train their own dog with or without the aid of a private dog trainer

Program-trained dogs

Many assistance dog organizations employ programs where future service dogs spending a year or more with a host family- particularly if the program breeds their own dogs or otherwise receives the dogs as puppies. During this time, they are primarily acclimated to working around people and all kinds of potential situations, as well as exposed to obedience training.

In addition, in the United States, use of selected inmates in prisons as animal trainers and puppy-raisers has proved a valuable resource to service dog organizations. In addition to teaching the dogs basic obedience and other skills needed to prepare them for their future careers, such programs have proved to be mutually beneficial relationships. Often, the inmates develop improved socialization skills and behavior as a result of their work with the dogs.

The process of obtaining a "program" service dog usually includes an application and evaluation process, after which potential handlers may spend time on a waiting list while a suitable dog is found and/or trained. The dogs may be free of charge, while some may require large amounts of money- financial assistance may or may not be offered. Once partnered, the new handler learning to work with the dog may take a few weeks to a period stretching over several months. In addition, many service dogs are required to touch up their training after they are formally placed, on a yearly or otherwise regular basis.


A growing number of people choose to train their own service dogs. These dogs come from a wide variety of places- some choose to pick a dog from a breeder or rescue one with the idea of training them to work in mind, while others decide a current, older pet might become a suitable partner (particularly if they develop the ability to alert to a medical condition). Handlers sometimes choose to research and train the dogs themselves, while others may employ a professional trainer or organization that accepts handler-picked dogs to help. People who train their own dogs generally a year or more with the dog "in-training," though self-trained dogs in particular never stop learning new skills.

First the service dog goes to a puppy raiser. There the raiser teaches the puppy basic commands such as, sit, stay, no, and leave it, etc. then it goes to training with the properly placed owner. At the school the dog learns special commands like, Turning on the lights, opening the refrigerator, etc. .

Accessibility of Service Dogs

Public accessibility of service dogs varies according to the country and region. A number of states employ specific laws to ensure the rights of handlers while in public. For example, in the United States, service dogs and their handlers enjoy special protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which gives them equal access to anywhere the general public is allowed, such as restaurants, taxis, and aircraft, as well as provide protection for handlers living in places "pets" are generally not allowed

Seizure response dog

Seizure response dogs are a special type of service dog, specifically trained to help someone who has epilepsy.

Due to the differing needs between each case, every potential seizure dog receives specialized training. Tasks for seizure dogs may include, but are not limited to:

Summoning help, either by finding another person or activating a medical alert or pre-programmed phone

Pulling potentially dangerous objects away from the person's body

"Blocking" to keep individuals with absence seizures from walking into obstacles, streets, and other dangerous areas

Attempting to arouse the unconscious handler during or after a seizure

Providing emotional and physical support

Carrying information regarding the dog and the handler's medical condition

Additionally, some dogs may develop the ability to sense an impending seizure. This behavior is usually reported to have arisen spontaneously, and developed over a period of time. There have been some studies where dogs were trained to alert impending seizures by using reward-based conditioning – with partial success. Some untrained dogs may help their owners, although there are also reports of dogs that have reacted aggressively or even died as a result of witnessing or anticipating their owner's seizure.

Dogs that are and may become seizure response dogs must be absolutely perfect for the job, and must be capable of maintaining control in every possible situation. Because of the rarity of these certain traits and the difficulty in training seizure response dogs, only a few organizations provide them. However, this number is rising.