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Dogs on duty

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Dogs are loving, caring and goofy creatures. But, did you know that they can help you in ways people can’t? Trisha Ghoroi tells you more about service dogs and how you can get one

The adorable creatures we see as harmless and playful are actually intelligent animals and can be trained to do more than just doggie tricks and beg for food. Dogs can be trained to sniff out bombs and help the police catch bad guys. But, these smart and brave animals can also be trained to perform delicate and sensitive jobs. There are quite a few medical conditions where people could use the assistance of a clever animal trained to help and a service dog is a wonderful option not only for the aid they provide, but also for the companionship. With a service dog around, the visually impaired won't need help from others and those prone to seizures will be safer. Here are the different kinds of service dogs and how they can help.

Seeing eye dogs

A guide dog or a seeing eye dog is trained to help the blind or those with visual impairments to navigate obstacles. These dogs are carefully selected depending on their nature and personality and the handler’s activity levels, to make sure they are a perfect match. They are trained to assess different situations, especially moving about, and find a safe path for their handler. Since dogs are colour blind and they can’t learn traffic signals, it’s a handler’s job to command the dog based on their other senses like sound. But, these dogs are trained to disobey such orders in dangerous situations and the handler is expected to trust the dog’s judgment.

Hearing dogs

We may take our hearing for granted, but it unconsciously keeps us aware of our surroundings. Life for the hearing impaired is tough; being unable to hear important things such as the fire alarm can be fatal. This is where hearing dogs come in. Their job is to alert the handler when they hear important sounds such as the doorbell, the fire alarm, a car alarm, someone calling the handler’s name, the alarm clock and a crying baby. These dogs have been trained not to bark but to nudge their handlers with their paw or nose in order to alert them. These dogs also help their handlers about doors as well, alerting them to the sound of the elevator, honking or construction sounds. They are also trained to indicate dangerous sounds and can alert their handlers by lying down.

Seizure alert and response dogs

A seizure can strike at any time without warning and people prone to seizures are completely helpless when an attack hits. But, not if they have seizure dog. There are two types of seizure dogs — seizure alert and seizure response dogs. Seizure alert dogs are naturally gifted and can detect an oncoming seizure and warn their handler. In fact, so attuned are they that usually the warning comes 10 to 20 minutes in advance, allowing the handler to get themselves to a safe area and call for help. Seizure response dogs, on the other hand, are trained to respond when their handler is having a seizure. They move their handler to open their airway, place themselves between their handler and the ground to prevent injury, help them get up after seizure ends, and even get help. These dogs help their handlers live independent lives and perform everyday tasks without any fear.

Mobility assistance dogs

For wheelchair bound individuals, even simple tasks such as picking up dropped objects can be difficult and require assistance. But, having a mobility assistance dog makes it a lot easier. These dogs can perform a number of tasks such as opening and closing doors, operating electric switches, opening and closing drawers and cabinets, operating elevator buttons and retrieving objects. Another type of mobility assistance dog is specially trained to provide balance and support for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease. They can gently guide their handlers along a safe path.

Psychiatric service dogs

Service dogs are not just for physical aid, they are extremely helpful for those who suffer from psychological disorders. These dogs are trained to help people trace their steps and can guide them back home after they’ve had a psychiatric episode. They can help find a family member in crowded place, bring medication, identify hallucinations and, in emergency situations, they can even guide their handler out of a dangerous situation by grabbing hold of their arm or sleeve. On daily basis too psychiatric service dogs are helpful for those suffering from psychiatric conditions. They help their handlers to wake up and go for walks.



People with life-threatening allergies can have a service dog to alert them about anything in the environment that might cause an allergic reaction. These dogs can sniff out allergens from food or the environment and warn their handlers. They can also be paired with children who have allergies.


Service dogs can prove helpful for those suffering from autism too. These dogs can prevent self-harm, they can help with meltdowns and get sufferers to a specific place such as their room or car. They can also paired with children and are trained to alert the parents in case of emergencies.


Dogs can be trained to detect high or low levels of hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar. They alert their handlers when their blood sugar levels are dangerously high so that they can take the required medicine to bring it back to normal.

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