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Human Helpers: 5 Amazing Jobs of Service Dogs

When you imagine a service dog, you likely think of a seeing-eye dog. But did you know there are dozens of other lifesaving jobs service dogs can perform? Helping the visually impaired is only one of them. Check out just a few of these amazing service dog jobs, and why you should thank a service dog today!

1. Diabetic Alert Dogs

A less well-known—but equally important—service dog helps those with diabetes. Diabetic alert dogs, also known as DADs and blood sugar alert dogs, are trained to notice blood sugar highs and lows, particularly ones that are dangerous or could be fatal. The sooner these highs and lows are detected, the quicker the handler can take the appropriate measures.

What breeds are trained as diabetic alert dogs?

Specific dogs are chosen for this job, thanks to their sensitive noses. Labradors are a good example, but golden retrievers, poodle mixes, and sporting breeds are also popular choices. Some locations will train a dog if it has the right nose receptors. For example, Labrador retrievers have more than 200 million sensors. Other programs only train dogs from specific breeders.

How are they trained?

They’re trained to tell the difference between two scents: high blood sugar and low blood sugar. In response, they may be taught to take a certain action, which could include jumping on the handler or holding a specific toy in their mouth. In more serious cases, the dogs can use a K-9 Alert Phone to call 911.

DADs are trained for about six to eight months, but some dogs are not placed with their families until they are two years old.

Fun Facts About Diabetic Alert Dogs:

  • Diabetic alert dogs have about a 90% accuracy rate!
  • Although most DADs don’t have specialized gear, they do often carry emergency contact information for their humans.

2. Visual Assistance Dogs

Visual assistance is one of the most common service dog jobs. While their official title is “visual assistance dog,” they are sometimes called:

  • Seeing-eye dogs
  • Guide dogs
  • Leader dogs

Their main job is to assist the visually impaired or blind throughout their day. Although there is no one registry keeping track of all the guide dogs, the number is estimated to be in the tens of thousands.

What breeds are trained as visual assistance dogs?

  • Labradors
  • German shepherds
  • Golden retrievers

Many other breeds are also used. What’s important is that the dog matches the handler in height and stride. While small dogs are used, most visual assistance dogs are medium or large.

How are they trained?

Every dog trained for this job is required to go through vigorous training, and some may not be suited for the work. Training starts early for most visual assistance dogs, and their program ends with training with their potential human. The process before they are permanently placed lasts for months.

When they are training and working, the dogs wear white guide-dog harnesses, and they are taught a number of skills and tasks during their training, including:

  • Walking in a straight line
  • Going around obstacles
  • Stopping at corners and curbs

The dog will only continue when commanded, but if there is dangerous traffic, for example, it will wait until the coast is clear.

3. Hearing Dogs

Another common service dog is for the hearing impaired or deaf. Hearing dogs respond to daily sounds like:

  • Doorbells
  • Knocks
  • Telephone rings
  • Children crying
  • Smoke alarms
  • Cars

They let their owners know about important sounds by touching and leading. Once a hearing dog is comfortable in its home, new sounds can be learned, like oven buzzers or microwave beeps. Less common sounds can be learned, but it’s much easier for a hearing dog to learn repetitive sounds.

What breeds are trained as hearing dogs?

Most hearing dogs are actually from shelters, so they come in many different breeds, mixes, shapes, colors, and sizes. A majority of handlers do request smaller dogs, so many are small or medium. The chosen dog should be energetic and willing to work, so these breeds and mixes of these breeds are common:

  • Terrier
  • Poodle
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Shih Tzu

How are they trained?

Training hearing dogs takes a similar amount of time as training seeing eye dogs: four to six months. During training, and even during work, hearing dogs interpret the job as playtime.

4. Autism Assistance Dogs

A service dog job that is becoming more popular is autism assistance. These dogs are trained to help calm autistic individuals, when needed, but they also help the person maintain boundaries and learn life skills. The majority of autism-assistance-dog handlers are children.

service dog jobs

Autism assistance dogs mainly aid autistic children with social interaction by helping them connect with others and with avoiding repetitive behaviors by redirecting them. They can also create a safety net for a child and reduce stress for the entire family by being the family dog. These service dogs have been shown to help create independence and improve vocabulary as children become comfortable speaking to their dogs.

What breeds are trained as autism assistance dogs?

Autism assistance dogs are usually:

  • Labradors
  • Golden retrievers
  • Goldendoodles
  • Labradoodles
  • Similar mixes

How are they trained?

Autism assistance dogs undergo two types of training, in many cases:

  • With a program
  • In their home

The primary caretaker may be required to be there for both parts.

The time it takes to train an autism assistance dog depends on the particular program it goes through. Some programs allow the dogs to go to their families while they’re still puppies, while others wait until the dogs are adults.

Facts about Autism Assistance Dogs:

  • As with diabetic alert dogs, autism assistance dogs don’t tend to have gear, but they do carry emergency contact information.
  • Programs that train these service dogs usually ask for a donation, which can be around $13,000. Some also offer payment plans.

5. Seizure Alert Dogs

Seizure alert dogs usually work with people with epilepsy, which affects 2 million people in the United States, but these dogs can help someone with any seizure disorder. Sadly, many people who suffer from seizures avoid going outside or doing daily activities, but a seizure alert dog can change that for them.

What breeds are trained as seizure alert dogs?

For most cases, as with other service dogs, Labradors, golden retrievers, and their mixes are the most common breeds used for seizure alert services. If the adopter has allergies, poodles and poodle mixes may be used.

How are they trained?

Some seizure alert dogs can be trained to know when a seizure is coming, but not all services provide this. PAWS with a Cause® states that while they don’t train their dogs to predict seizures, it is possible for the dogs to learn after years with their owners.

The pups may be trained to:

  • Catch the person if they’re falling
  • Find help
  • Use a life-alert system
  • Remain close to their owner during a seizure event.

Training takes more than two years.

Facts about Seizure Alert Dogs:

  • Oncoming seizure alerts can include behaviors like circling, pacing, close eye contact, and pawing.
  • Some service dogs that are trained to know when a seizure is coming can predict one to up to an hour ahead of time!

There are many other jobs for service dogs than the examples listed here, from PTSD assistance to severe allergy alert! Dogs make amazing, wonderful pets for almost anyone. For the deaf, blind, autistic, diabetic, those living with seizure, and more, the work they do is lifesaving!

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The Team @ Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital

Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital serves Katy, TX and the surrounding areas with a dedication and passion for our animal friends that is unmatched. Our veterinarians are highly trained, experienced, and compassionate when it comes to giving your pet the care they deserve. If your companion is in need of emergency care, a dental cleaning, grooming, or just a check-up, we would love to see them! Call 281-693-7387 to make an appointment quickly and easily.

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