Dogs can be exceptionally smart and intuitive. Combine these qualities with specific training, and service dogs can help individuals with disabilities in countless ways. Most people are familiar with guide service dogs that assist visually impaired individuals. Still, service dogs can provide a much wider range of other tasks that are beneficial to their humans. Training involves teaching a dog to perform tasks specific to their handler’s needs. The list of service dog tasks is extensive, but most can be categorized into three types: alerts, guiding, and interaction tasks.
What is a Mobility Assistance Dog?
Mobility assistance dogs are specifically trained to help a person who has a physical limitation or impairment that makes it difficult for them to move around. A dog may pick up dropped objects for a person in a wheelchair. They may be trained to turn lights on or off or open doors. Some dogs wear a special harness so they can help provide stability for their handler. They may steer their person through a crowd. Mobility assistance dog tasks provide the help needed so a person can feel more independent. Individuals can safely and reliably take their service dog to work, school, restaurants, and more.
A Comprehensive List of Service Dog Tasks
The list of service dog tasks is broad and includes passive tasks and actively requested tasks. A service dog task is an on-demand service requested by their handler when they have a specific need. The handler does not request some tasks, but the dog is trained to respond to the handler’s environment. The canine is signaled by a change that occurs in the handler’s behavior or environment. For example, a dog may be trained to alert when its handler shows signs of an impending panic attack, or it may work directly with the handler to help them navigate an obstacle. Here is a list of common service dog tasks.
Service Dog Tasks: Alerts
The list of service dog tasks in the alerts category may involve alerting the handler when a bodily function goes too high or too low, such as a heart rate or blood sugar level. Some Dogs have an innate ability to alert handlers about abnormal body functions. Canines are trained to alert the handler in an appropriate way and to be consistent. The list of tasks associated with alerts also includes helping its handler navigate any interference that may occur in their environment. Some of the common alert tasks include:
- Alerting a handler about oncoming seizure activity
- Alerting its handler about a heart attack
- Alerting handlers about a change in blood sugar levels
- Alerting the handler when someone calls them by name or when an official announcement is made
- Alerting a family member or a passerby about the condition of the handler
- Alerting its handler about food that contains known allergens
- Alerting a handler about a fire alarm or other alarm
- Alerting a handler about a ringing telephone, someone knocking on the door, or ringing the doorbell, smoke detectors activated
Veteran PTSD Service Dog Tasks
Veterans often suffer from service-related trauma or anxiety that can keep them from being able to live life to its fullest. Veterans who suffer from PTSD, traumatic brain injury (TBI), anxiety, or other serious service-related conditions can benefit from having a well-trained service dog. PTSD service dogs can help reduce the severity of symptoms, improve mental health, and improve social interactions for an individual. PTSD service dog tasks might include:
- Interrupt or alert a handler to anxiety by nudging them or placing its head in the lap of the veteran.
- Comfort or calm the veteran by laying on top of them, or leaning against the handler.
- Position their body in front of their veteran handle to block or create space. Finding or following a specific person
- Cover the veteran from behind by positioning themselves behind them and letting them know if someone starts approaching.
- A trained service dog will be able to tell if their handler is having a nightmare and they may gently wake them.
Guiding Service Dog Tasks
At Putnam Service dogs, we do not train dogs for guide work, although they play an essential role for individuals with sight impairments. This list of service dog guiding tasks involves tasks at home, work, or out in public spaces. They have to do with the handler’s immediate environment and can help when a handler is disoriented or has specific visual impairments. Some guiding service dog tasks include:
- Guiding its handler to a safe place
- Helping the handler find the exit of a building
- Guiding the handler home or to a specific location, person, item, or object
- Guiding the handler around hanging objects
- Helping the handler navigate around moving or static objects
- Notifying the handler about stairs or a curb
- Notifying its handler about a change in elevation
- Sensing danger and standing in front of the handler to stop them from moving
- Helping their handler find their assigned seat at work or school
As you can see, service dogs can be trained to perform a wide variety of specific tasks that are helpful to their handlers. They are trained based on the specific needs of their handlers. Do you or someone you love need a service dog? Contact us or submit an application today!