Everything You Need to Know About Service Dogs

A blind man and his golden retriever dog are outdoors on a sunny day. The service dog is helping his owner move around.

Dogs are loyal, dependable and a lot more intelligent than some people give them credit for. These qualities make them the perfect pet, and man’s best friend. If trained the right way, a dog’s intelligence can benefit people with disabilities and help them live more independent and fulfilling lives.

If you’re thinking about getting a service dog to help you or a loved one manage a condition, then you have come to the right place! Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about service dogs.

How Can I Get a Service Dog?

The first thing you need to do to get a service dog is prove that you do indeed qualify for one. You can do this by getting written documentation from your healthcare provider, which proves that:

  1. a) You are being treated for a physical or mental disorder.
  2. b) As a result of this physical/mental issue, you require the assistance of a service dog.

Then, you need to contact the appropriate service dog provider in your area, who will help you with hassle free service dog registration and any other paperwork you need so that you can bring your new service dog home.

How Are Service Dogs Trained?

Service dog training can take up to two years depending on the trainability of the breed. Because service dogs are recognized under the law as ‘working dogs’, the training program is fairly in-depth, much more so than it is for your average pet.

Service dogs are usually trained in an in-house service dog ‘school’, where they are trained to perform a range of tasks. Some of these tasks include:

  • Guiding people through busy areas
  • Recognizing symptoms and triggers
  • Alerting people when help is needed
  • Opening and closing doors
  • Turning lights on and off
  • Detecting allergens and dangerous blood sugar levels

Types of Service Dogs

There are several kinds of service dogs based on your physical, mental and medical needs; all have intense bespoke training to help them to perform their duties and enrich their lives. You can find out more about the most common ones below.

Guide Dogs

Guide dogs are trained to help people with visual impairments get from A to B, navigate the world, and get a little bit of independence back. They are by far the most well-known type of service dog.

German Shepherds, Labradors and Golden Retrievers are usually selected to be guide dogs because of their temperaments and adaptability to training.

Hearing Dogs

Hearing dogs act as the ears of their owners. Their purpose is to alert their handlers of important sounds like alarm clocks, phones, smoke alarms and doorbells.

Golden Retrievers, Poodles and Cocker Spaniels are good breeds for hearing dogs due to their reliability and responsiveness.

Medical Alert Dogs

You can also get service dogs for a variety of issues including epilepsy, diabetes and allergies. These dogs are trained to recognise the symptoms/complications of the illness and then alert someone and ask for help.

Psychiatric Service Dogs

For people with anxiety, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and autism, service dogs can be trained to spot harmful behavior patterns in owners and then act accordingly to stop them from hurting themselves.

They also act as a companion and source of comfort to ease the owner’s struggles relating to their condition. Keep in mind this is different from an Emotional Support Animal, which is not trained to service their owner and just provides comfort.


Service dogs enrich the lives of people with all kinds of limitations. Although getting a service dog might be a lengthy and complicated process, it will make all the difference if you struggle with a life-limiting condition.