A Service Dog is a type of assistance dog specifically trained to help people who have disabilities other than visual or hearing impairment. Examples include psychiatric service (emotional support) dogs, mobility assistance dogs, and seizure response or medical response dogs.
Service dogs are sometimes trained and bred by private organizations. In other cases, a disabled handler may train their own dog with or without the aid of a private dog trainer. Desirable character traits include good temperament or psychological make-up, good health including physical structure, biddability and trainability. (’Biddability is the amount of “forgiveness” or “bend” a dog has, or his willingness to carry out the orders or wishes of another without protest.)"
Service Dogs can perform the normal obedience commands such as sit, down, stay and come. They are also trained to perform many commands that are designed to make their owner’s life easier. Pottying on command, picking things up and handing them over, pulling a wheel chair, opening a door and many other commands make the owner’s life easier and more independent.
A Companion Dog usually describes a dog that does not work, providing only companionship as a pet rather than usefulness by doing specific tasks. Any dog can be a Companion Dog, and many working types such as retrievers are enjoyed primarily for their friendly nature as a family pet, as are mixed breed dogs. Companion Dogs often enhance the ability of a disabled person to form social relationships. The American Kennel Club also offers a Companion Dog title for judged dog obedience competitions.
A Hearing Dog is a dog trained to assist a deaf or hearing-impaired person by signaling the occurrence of certain sounds such as a telephone, doorbell, fire alarm, alarm clock, microwave timers, dryers, keys falling on the floor, or someone shouting their name.
A Skilled Companion Dog refers to a Companion Dog that is trained to work for a child or person with a disability under the guidance of a facilitator who helps provide care and training.
A Mobility Assistance Dog is a Service Dog trained to assist a physically disabled person. Among other tasks, they are commonly trained to pick up objects, open and close doors, and operate light switches. Some larger-statured dogs are trained to pull individuals in wheelchairs, carry items in a backpack, and wear a type of harness specifically designed for pulling.
One specialized type of Mobility Assistance Dog is a Walker Dog. They are commonly used for Parkinson’s patients, along with post-injury recovering and other disorders and conditions. These “living canes” can greatly assist a person with their gait and balance while walking. Also, if their handler falls, the dog may be trained to act as a brace to help regain position.
A Therapy Dog is a dog trained to provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, and to people with learning difficulties and in stressful situations such as disaster areas.
Therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic of a Therapy Dog is its temperament and lovingness. A good Therapy Dog must be friendly, patient, confident, gentle, and at ease in all situations. Therapy Dogs must enjoy human contact and be content to be petted and handled, sometimes clumsily or awkwardly.
A Therapy Dog's primary job is to allow unfamiliar people to make physical contact with it, to enjoy that contact, and to bring comfort to those in need. Children in particular enjoy hugging animals while adults usually enjoy simply petting the dog. The dog must be able to tolerate being lifted onto, or climbing onto an individual’s lap or bed, and sit or lie comfortably there. Many dogs contribute to the visiting experience by performing small tricks for their audiences or by playing carefully structured games.