When people think about dogs aiding people with disabilities, the first thing that comes to mind are dogs that assist the blind.But there are service dogs that assist people with many disabilities, as well as medical conditions. And whereas many of these dogs are larger breeds, such as German Shepherds or Labrador Retrievers, more and more smaller and even mixed breeds are being used in these roles. Here are some of the many service and medical jobs dogs are performing today.
Hearing DogsDogs, as a species, have much better hearing than humans. So having dogs assist people who are deaf or have a hearing loss is a natural fit. Dogs are specially trained to alert their humans to sounds. In addition to door knocks or doorbells (most dogs tell their owners about that, whether the person has a hearing disability or not), dogs respond to telephones and smoke detectors. The dogs can respond to other sounds hearing people take for granted, like alarm clocks, the whistle of a tea kettle, or dropping your keys. Outdoors the dogs alert their people to approaching traffic and can even be taught to respond to their owner's name so the dog can notify his person if someone calls out to his owner. The dogs alert their owners by touching them and leading them in the direction of the sound. By watching the interaction of the dog and his person, other people may realize an individual is hearing-impaired and be more inclined to face the person directly to help facilitate communication.
Mobility Assistance DogsPeople who are restricted to wheelchairs can have an easier time both in their homes and outside with the help of these dogs. They're trained for a variety of tasks: pick up and retrieve dropped items; open doors, drawers, and cabinets; turn lights on and off; and even help their owners undress by pulling on clothes their owner is working to remove. These dogs can also alert a parent or other household member if their human needs help the dog cannot provide. Outside the home, these dogs can push elevator buttons and automatic door buttons. They can carry items their person needs in a doggy back pack. The can even help pull the wheelchair for short distances, or up ramps or inclines. They can provide the love and emotional support to help the wheelchair-bound get through their days. These dogs give their humans additional freedom by performing tasks that would otherwise be done by another person or not at all.
Seizure DogsSeizure dogs help people who suffer from epilepsy by reacting to a person having a seizure (seizure response dogs) or being able to alert to an impending seizure (seizure predicting dogs). Seizure dogs can be trained to help in a variety of ways. Especially in the case of children, some dogs are trained to bark to alert the parents of the seizure. The dog can be trained to activate an alarm system by pushing on a pedal or a button. As a person starts to have a seizure, some seizure dogs will put themselves between the seizing person and floor to break the person's fall. Dogs are also trained to lie beside the person during the seizure to help prevent injury.