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What Are Service Dogs? Breeds and Duties of These Fantastic Dogs

I spent 22 years in the nursing profession. I enjoy writing, reading historical novels, gardening, and helping people live a healthier life.

Trained Service Dog

Trained Service Dog

Service Dog History

There are approximately 500,000 service dogs in the U.S., and they serve in numerous capacities. Typically, larger herding dogs are trained as service dogs.

Blind or visually impaired people were probably the first to use a trained service dog. In 1780, the Les Quinze Vingts Hospital in Paris may have been the first training location of dogs to aid the blind. In the United States, the first hospital to train service dogs did so in 1929.

Typical Service Dog Breeds

Some of the common types of dogs chosen as service dogs include:

  • German Shepherd
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Belgian Malinois
  • Bloodhounds
  • Dutch Shepherds
  • Bloodhounds
  • Pomeranians (medical alerts)
  • Collies

These dogs are known for their desire to cooperate with their handlers and their incredible working ability. Some have a great tenacity for police work. Some of these dogs can provide numerous tasks, and others have just one task they perform.

Walking Dog

Walking Dog

Dogs Trained to Smell Cancer

Recent research has shown that some dogs can smell cancer in urine or on a person’s breath, particularly for people with lung cancer. As dogs have 225,000,000 scent receptors in their nose and humans only have 5,000,000, there has been a large amount of double-blind studies to detect cancer.

One of the lung cancer studies using canine scent detection as compared to biopsies found 95% predictability. Breast cancer using urine samples was also 95%.

Dogs Can Smell Cancer

Military Service Dog

Military Service Dog

Police and Military Dogs

Police dogs are commonly used to detect drugs, explosives, and accelerants in arson cases. These dogs are commonly used for border security and at airports. Police dogs are taught to bite dangerous suspects and actually hold them hostage. They often put their lives on the line to protect their human partners when they go up against an armed suspect.

Additionally, these dogs often search for lost victims that have been kidnapped, or for a person who gets lost in a wooded area. They are trained to find living and deceased victims. They also sort through rubble following an explosion, earthquake, or other disaster.

Dogs have been used by the military since the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Attila the Hun. Dogs are essential used by the military to sniff out drugs, bombs, track the enemy and even attack if necessary.

Service Dog Task Examples

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Service Dogs for Veterans

Several non-profit organizations give service dogs to veterans at no cost if they served and have PTSD, traumatic brain injury, permanent physical disabilities, profound hearing loss, or military sexual trauma. These highly skilled service dogs accompany their partners by performing tasks and going wherever their partner goes.

The multiple tasks the dogs do include the following:

  • Barking on command for help
  • Retrieving objects from the counters, floors or tables
  • Pushing elevator and automatic door buttons
  • Turning light switches on and off
  • Standing and bracing for stability
  • Getting a cell phone in an emergency

Key information is obtained during the application process, which will let the instructors match this information with the best-suited dog for the best success. The trainer’s objectives and goals relating to the needs of this applicant will be met.

The vet will eventually go to classes that will provide a calming effect and a sense of security. These classes will teach the vet how to prepare and how to get acquainted with their dog. The classes will also cover training in basic and advanced obedience, dog care, canine communication, and leading their dog through advanced handling techniques. The student will learn when to reward their dog throughout the working day and how to read their dog, anticipating the dog’s reactions.

To qualify with one of the non-profit organizations, the following rules must be met:

  1. Must have served in any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and have received an honorable discharge.
  2. A first responder with a work disability may apply.
  3. Participate in a two-week training program.
  4. The person adopting a dog must agree to maintaining the dog’s training and provide for the dog’s well-being, which may cost up to $100 monthly.
  5. Must meet the emotional and physical needs of the dog and needs a support system if/when the adopter is unable to meet the needs of the dog.
  6. Professionals that work with military organizations may also be eligible to adopt a dog.

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than you love yourself.

— Josh Billings

Police Dog

Police Dog

Dogs for Patients With Seizures

The service dog for patients that have seizures is trained to help or assist the individual during or after a seizure. These dogs are trained to naturally detect an oncoming seizure and warn their partner of it. Roughly 65 million people around the world have epilepsy, with 3.4 million in the US.

The service dog will do the following:

  • Display particular behaviors before a seizure.
  • Remain close to their partner during a seizure, preventing injuries.
  • Alert a caregiver, family member, or emergency response system.
  • Get a cell phone, an alert device, or medication.
  • Open a door or turn on a light.

The seizure service dog alerts their partner with close eye contact, licking, pawing, acting restlessly, circling, or pacing.

It is thought that when a person has a seizure they give off a different scent. It has not been proven true, but it is probable.

Why Service Dogs Are Remarkable

Service dogs are well-trained and remarkable. They are also used for patients with anxiety, diabetes, depression, autism, panic attacks, and MS.

These dogs can cost from $25,000 to $35,000, or if you get a dog from a private trainer, they may cost $10,000 to $12,000. The non-profit organizations give numerous dogs to needy individuals at no cost.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Pamela Oglesby


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 27, 2019:

Hi Luis, I understand staying within the budget and I hope things inprove in your future.

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 26, 2019:

I am planning that Pamela, however, since I have no job right now, I am in an issue regarding my budget.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 26, 2019:

Hi Luis, I know you like pets. Maybe you will let your son get a rabbit. Haha. I appreciate your comments.

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 25, 2019:

I love this article. I love having dogs, however, I cannot have that kind of breed because it is too expensive. Anyway, thanks for sharing.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on June 25, 2019:

Hi Vivian, I don't get to the store that often as I haven't seen dogs that often. It seems like any new program is abused. There are some people that service dogs help tremendously, but others that abuse the system. I wonder about the people that let people abuse the system. That is really sad. I appreciate your comments.

Vivian Coblentz on June 25, 2019:

I can appreciate the use of a service dogs for all the conditions/situations you mention in this article. However, unnecessary "service dogs" are my absolute pet peeve! First, there are far too many people trying to pass off their family pet as a service dog so they can take them shopping. I've been to the grocery on a few occasions where such "service dogs" peed all over the floor of the store--so unhygienic! I've even seen people giving their dogs drinks from the water fountain! Also, we now live among the "snowflake generation" that can't handle life and want a service pet. It's ridiculous! People even carry their dogs in purses into the grocery store and push them in baby strollers--overly humanizing a mere animal! Anyway, if people like the ones you mention in this article as well as police departments need service dogs, fine. The rest who are abusing this privilege need to stop taking advantage of the system.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 09, 2019:

RTalloni, I appreciate the clarification. I was going to look it up online to see what I could learn. Thank you.

RTalloni on April 08, 2019:

So sorry, I should have been clearer. FaithStay is not a charity. It is a business similar to Airbnb and they allow members to donate part of the profit they make through the company to charities like the non-profits that train the dogs and provide them to the needy. Sorry for the confusion.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 08, 2019:

Hi RTalloni, I don't know about contributing to FaithStay, but I would imagine it is a worthwhile charity. Dogs do so much for those suffering with PTSD, not to mention the blind and those with other problems.

I appreciate your kind words, and I am glad you liked the article.

RTalloni on April 08, 2019:

The animals with this kind of ability are so valuable, not the least of how they provide a friendship to a suffering person. Thank you for highlighting some of their history and work in this well done article!

Businesses like FaithStay give members the option of donating to specific charities. Do you know of ways people can contribute to the nonprofits handling the training of these dogs?

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 23, 2019:

Hi Maria, I love the service dogs and miracle workers with paws is a good way to look at them. Thanks you so much for your comments. Love and hugs to you too. Have a wonderful Sunday.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on March 23, 2019:

Dear Pam,

I love everything about this article.

Service dogs are miracle workers with paws - thank you for raising awareness on these fur angels.

I had no idea the first service dog dated back to 1780 - very cool.

Beautiful work. Love and hugs, Maria

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 17, 2019:

Hi Ann, Sponsoring a guide dog for someone in need is a wonderful thing to do, and your experience in the park is amazing. I think dogs do have some sort of 6th sense.

Thank you so much for your kind comments.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 17, 2019:

Hi Flourish. No worries and I am glad you dropped in to comment. Dogs are amazing and you hear such wonderful stories about them as well. They become like a family member over the years.

Have a good Sunday!

Ann Carr from SW England on March 17, 2019:

Dogs are so sensitive, aren't they? Wonderful companions and, I believe, with a sixth sense for the world around them.

They seem to sympathise with those who have some sort of disability or impairment. Recently, I was with a group of people visiting a farm. The farm dog was happy to be fussed over and just ran amongst us but homed in on a lady who used a wheeled walker to move about and occasionally to sit on; he came and sat in front of her, put his chin in her lap and stayed there until she moved on, then repeated that next each time she stopped. I found that moving.

I sponsor a guide dog for the blind and we're given updates on each one's progress - 'mine' is a German Shepherd/Retriever cross.

We also had a demonstration at school once, of a dog who helped the deaf. They are all wonderful animals; quick, intelligent and loving.

You've covered so much of their work here, Pamela. Well done.


FlourishAnyway from USA on March 17, 2019:

Animals are amazing for their abilities to intuit our emotional states. I think the fact that they don't speak the "noise" of our language gives them the advantage of tuning in to us on another level altogether. Sorry, I thought I commented on this lovely article previously!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 11, 2019:

Hi Linda, I agree that these dogs are wonderful. Thank your for your comments. Have a good week.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 10, 2019:

Service dogs do wonderful and very important jobs. Thank you for sharing the information about them, Pamela.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 05, 2019:

Hi Eric, I think all of those things are true. Thanks Eri.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 05, 2019:

Pamela, this brought me back thinking of these dogs do not judge and are steadfast.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 05, 2019:

Hi Ms. Dora, I do remember that old saying, and I agree that it should mean the opposite. Thanks so much for your comments.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 04, 2019:

When I was growing up, if we talked about treating somebody like a dog, it usually meant that we treated him or her like something useless. Hope we've changed that because now it should mean the opposite. I enjoyed learning about the various ways these dogs serve humanity. Thanks for the information.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 04, 2019:

Hi Peg, I think our pets always train us. Dogs are amazing in the number of things they can be trained. I appreciate your comments.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on March 04, 2019:

Dogs really are fantastic. And your detailed explanation of the different types of service dogs was quite interesting. It's amazing what they can be trained to do. Mine certainly have me trained.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 04, 2019:

Hi Clive, I agree and I will check out that link. Thanks for commenting.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 04, 2019:

Hi Peggy, I love dogs too, and it is great to see them at work. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Clive Williams from Jamaica on March 04, 2019:

Nice Doggy article. Dogs are just great overall.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 03, 2019:

It is amazing what these service dogs can do to help people. We occasionally see one when we are out and about. People are warned not to approach them to pet them, etc. They need to stay focused and are on the job, so to speak.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 03, 2019:

Hi Liz, That is a great story about President Bush's dog. These service dogs are so wonderful and help so many people. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting Liz.

Liz Westwood from UK on March 03, 2019:

In the UK we were recently touched by the story reported on TV about President Bush's dog, which was his loyal companion in his last months and its use now as a service dog, supporting veterans.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 03, 2019:

Hi again Eric, I do remember that now. Thank you.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 03, 2019:

Oh excuse me nice Pamela sometimes I don't quote all that good. I try to avoid it. This would be about Genesis around 1:26 in the Bible. It is said in about that space that God gave dominion over "beasts", to man. My dogs had "dominion" over me. Happy that was.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 03, 2019:

Hi Eric, Dancing with a dog sounds great, but I'm not sure about the Gensis reference.

I think every boy would love to have a dog. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on March 03, 2019:

Pamela a Man who does not dance with a dog has never danced. I heard about this thing in Genesis about stewardship of animals. I would become to question that writing. Seems by proper reckoning my fantastic dogs have been more my stewards.

About time for my boy to get a best friend.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 03, 2019:

Hi Pop, Dogs truly want to be helpful, to work and be loved, so I agree with your comment. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

breakfastpop on March 03, 2019:

These dogs are truly amazing. The fools in Congress can learn a lot from them!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 03, 2019:

Hi Penny, Wow! I didn't know about those dogs or I would have included them. I had recently learned about them sniffing out cancer, and I thought that was remarkable. Dogs are truly amazing.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Penny Leigh Sebring from Fort Collins on March 03, 2019:

Dogs are absolutely amazing! There are even dogs that are helping environmentalists by sniffing out specific types of scat, including whale scat!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 03, 2019:

Hi Bill, I decided I would write a more cheerful article this week. I am a pet lover (dog & cat) and have always had one at least.

Dogs are remarkable. I was surprised they were teaching them to sniff out cancer. Dogs help us all in so many ways.

Glad you loved the article. Thanks for commenting Bill. Have a good week.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 03, 2019:

They are simply remarkable animals. Not a day goes by I don't marvel at our pup Maggie and all that she comprehends. As a dog lover, Pamela, I loved this article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 03, 2019:

Hi Heidi, I think what your church does is wonderful. I have had many dogs over the years also and love them. I am glad you enjoyed the article. Thank you so much for your comments.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on March 03, 2019:

Dogs are so amazing! (Why we've had them in our house for over 25 years.)

A church charity in our area provides "comfort dog" visits to people and areas throughout the country that are suffering or grieving (natural disasters, shootings, funerals, etc.). They are just incredible and have such a calming effect on victims and all those affected by loss. Like service dogs, they're trained to work with lots of different people. One was serving at the wake for one of our friends who passed from cancer.

Thanks for sharing the wonderful work these animals and their handlers do!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 03, 2019:

Hi Lorna, I enjoyed writing this article. As a RN I saw dogs occasionally brought in for some of the elderly and their faces lit up. Dogs have been so wonderful in many ways. I appreciate your comments.

Lorna Lamon on March 03, 2019:

I really enjoyed this article Pamela, these wonderful animals give so much in lots of ways. As part of the Red Cross program, I visit various residential care homes and was happy to see that for many of the residents a visit from a four legged friend is something they always look forward to. Thank you for sharing.

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