List of Reasons for a Service Dog (17 great reasons)

This blog article will cover the list of reasons for a service dog. It will explore the types of service dogs and their functions, why you should not have a service dog and the differences among various dogs.

Have you ever wondered what a service dog is? A service dog undergoes training to carry out particular responsibilities based on the handler’s requirements, which usually surround physical or mental disabilities. 

List of Reasons for a Service Dog

People need service dogs for various mental and physical disabilities, such as:

  • Depressive Disorders
  • Autism
  • Schizophrenia and Psychotic Disorders
  • Neurocognitive and Sleep-Wave Disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders;
  • Anxiety Disorders, including Phobias;
  • Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders, including PTSD;
  • Substance Use Disorders;
  • Bipolar Disorders; and
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Vertigo
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Arthritis
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Sensory Disabilities, such as blindness and deafness
  • Chronic Pain
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Spinal Cord Injury

Mental Disabilities

The following is a list of some of the mental disabilities mentioned in the DSM for which service dogs may be beneficial. 

  • Depressive Disorders
  • Autism
  • Schizophrenia and Psychotic Disorders
  • Neurocognitive and Sleep-Wave Disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders;
  • Anxiety Disorders, including Phobias;
  • Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders, including PTSD;
  • Substance Use Disorders;
  • Bipolar Disorders; and
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Physical Disabilities

Some of the physical disabilities for which service dogs may be extremely beneficial include the following. 

  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Vertigo
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Arthritis
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Sensory Disabilities, such as blindness and deafness
  • Chronic Pain
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Spinal Cord Injury

Types of Service Dogs and their Functions

The following is a description of some of the types of service dogs and their associated functions.

  • Guide Dogs
  • Hearing Dogs
  • Psychiatric Service Dogs
  • Autism Support Dogs

Guide Dogs

A guide dog helps people with visual impairments by assisting them in crossing the road and avoiding obstacles while walking. Labrador and Golden Retriever dogs are commonly used as guide dogs. Sometimes, Poodles and German Shepherds are also used as guide dogs.

Hearing Dogs

These dogs are used by individuals with auditory impairments, such as deafness. Hearing dogs help alert their owners to various sounds, like doorbells, alarms, phone-ringing, crying babies, and even smoke alarms. They gently touch them or guide them to the source of the sound. Breeds commonly used as hearing dogs include Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, Lhasa Apsos, Poodles, and Chihuahuas. 

Psychiatric Service Dogs

These service dogs help people with psychiatric conditions, like depression, anxiety, and most commonly, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many war veterans have PTSD, and so do people who have experienced or witnessed abuse, natural calamities, accidents, terrorism, and other significant life events.  

People with these conditions tend to be hyper-alert and feel unsafe. So, a service dog provides a blanket of protection as they check their surroundings, turn on the lights, and also create barriers between their handler and other people in public at times of distress. 

Autism Support Dogs

These service dogs are incredibly beneficial to people on the spectrum, especially young children. They provide a sense of familiarity and structure in social spaces. They can help children with social skill inadequacies to connect with their peers as dogs are fantastic icebreakers. These dogs also provide comfort and care.

Why Should You Not Have a Service Dog?

You should not have a service dog for the following reasons.

  • Affordability
  • Judgment
  • Lack of Public Awareness
  • Excessive Attention

Affordability

Service dogs are not cheap to own and take care of, as they involve many expenses. Typically, the initial costs of purchasing a dog can range from 15 to 30 thousand dollars. Even if you buy a dog for little to no fee using a grant or donation, you have to spend between 500 and 10,000 dollars every year on average for its maintenance. https://www.nsarco.com/blog/service-dog-buyers-guide.html 

Affordability is not restricted to monetary aspects; it also involves feasibility and practicality. After all, a service dog is like any other dog, so it defecates, is slobbery with foul breath. Therefore, if you are not fond of dogs, being around service dogs can become challenging and counterproductive. 

Service dogs are sentient beings and will have days when they are not as helpful, misbehave, fall sick suddenly, and other concerns that you will have to deal with and find ways to overcome.  

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Judgment

Some examples of the kind of judgment you may experience with a service dog are as follows:

  • “You are lazy.”
  • “Service dogs are not appropriate interventions.”
  • “You are too young to have a debilitating health condition.”
  • “You are attention-seeking.”
  • “I don’t think you require such support.”
  • You may not receive adequate emotional and financial support from your family;
  • People you are with may feel embarrassed to be seen with a service dog; and
  • People may accuse you of needing to take your dog with you everywhere.

Lack of Public Awareness

People often think that service dogs are only meant for guiding the blind. They do not realize that service dogs are also used for other issues, including mobility, psychiatric conditions, medical alert, guidance, and diabetic alert. 

Also, people find it challenging to distinguish service dogs from other types of dogs, such as therapy dogs, working dogs, and emotional support assistance animals (ESA). They often think that a psychiatric service dog and an ESA dog are the same. 

Bully breeds, such as pit bulls, boxers, and bulldogs, are unfairly labeled as malicious, violent, and harmful. Several places prohibit these breeds from entering. However, such restrictions cannot legally extend to service dogs. 

The majority of the general public also believes that service dogs are only supposed to be large breeds. Therefore, people with small breeds as service dogs face much discrimination. 

Excessive Attention

You will need to take your service dog everywhere you go because that is what they are meant to do – take care of you. Although your dog is vital for your well-being, people around you may not view it for it is. People might view your dog as a spectacle and assume it is okay to pet, stalk, click pictures and videos of, and stare at your dog, all of which can be overwhelming.

They may be unaware, misinformed, and inconsiderate and bombard you with questions regarding your dog maintenance and how they can make their dog a “therapy dog, too.”

Apart from paying excessive attention to your dog, you will receive inappropriate focus. Your personal space is likely to be invaded, and you probably will have questions thrown at you regarding your personal and medical life. They may provide unsolicited advice on your dog’s training, how you do not look sick enough, or how you are inconsiderate for not being okay with others petting your dog. 

These points are not restricted to the general public but often extends to families and friends. 

Differences Among Various Dogs

Here are the differences among various dogs.

  • Service Dogs
  • Therapy Dogs
  • Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)
  • Working Dog

Service Dogs

As we have seen in detail, these dogs are trained to carry out particular responsibilities to meet the needs of people with various disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) classifies disabilities in multiple ways, including intellectual, psychiatric, other mental disabilities, physical, and sensory. 

Some of the ways service dogs help people with disabilities include:

  • Assisting blind people to cross the street;
  • Help people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) differentiate between essential signals (e.g., smoke alarm) and other sensory information, and alert them when they engage in stereotypical behaviors or sensory overload; and
  • Help people with physical disabilities, such as amputees, by opening doors, carrying items, or fetching things for them.

Therapy Dogs

Therapy dogs are different from service dogs in that they are not explicitly trained to live with a particular person with a disability. Instead, they volunteer with their owner at various places, including hospitals, nursing homes, schools, mental health institutions, and hospices. They offer relief, warmth, and even love to the people in these settings.  

Therapy dogs undergo training that allows them to adjust and be comfortable in novel situations and environments, be sociable and interact with new people, remain composed, be calm while being handled, and not get startled by unusual sounds or actions. 

Emotional Support Animals (ESAs)

ADA does not consider ESAs as service dogs. Although they may undergo training for a particular handler, they are not equipped with the skills to carry out specific responsibilities or assist someone with disabilities. 

However, they are incredibly beneficial to people with mental illnesses as they are excellent companions and help comfort various symptoms of anxiety, loneliness, depression, and phobias. For a dog to be an ESA, a mental health professional must prescribe the dog to a person with a mental condition like anxiety or depression. 

Working Dogs

Common examples of working dogs include hunting, herding, detection, police, search and rescue, and military dogs. These dogs are taught to assist people in various tasks. Working dogs typically utilize their heightened sense of smell to help in multiple things, including:

  • Cancer Detection

One study found that an eight-year-old female Labrador retriever identified colorectal cancer. She had an accuracy rate of 91% when she smelled the patients’ breath and 97% when she smelled their feces. It is an incredible feat compared to the commonly used fecal occult blood test, which has an accuracy rate of 10%. 

  • Explosives Detection

Police, military, and transportation security dogs can assist with locating hazardous items. They undergo training to find and recognize various explosives. Typically, German Shepherd, Dutch Shepherd, and Belgian Malinois. 

  • Search and Rescue

Dogs trained for search and rescue help with a range of tasks, including locating missing persons, search for corpses, rescuing people from emergencies, such as drowning or avalanches. Bloodhounds are commonly used to carry out these tasks.

Conclusion

This blog article outlined a list of reasons for a service dog. It covered the types of service dogs and their functions, why you should not have a service dog and the differences among various dogs.

FAQs: List of Reasons for a Service Dog

How does a service dog help people with mobility difficulties?

Service dogs help people with mobility difficulties by moving their wheelchair, bringing them things, providing stability while walking, and even turning the lights on and off. People with mobility issues are prone to drop items and feel embarrassed. Service dogs help pick these objects for them and provide them with a sense of comfort, autonomy, and protection.

When are you eligible for a service dog?

You are eligible to have a service dog when you meet the criteria for disability, physical or mental, as outlined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). You must also provide documentation for your diagnosis and requirement of a service dog from a healthcare professional. 

Does the ADA mandate service dogs to undergo professional training?

No, the ADA does not mandate service dogs to undergo professional training. The owners can train their dogs themselves. 

If my dog helps me with my anxiety, does it make my dog a service dog?

It depends on whether your dog senses an impending attack and minimizes its effect or if its mere presence comforts you. As per the ADA, your dog can qualify as a service dog in the former case, whereas it is not eligible in the latter case.

References

Marcoux, H. (2019, November 19). 10 Types of Service Dogs and What They Do. Dogster. Retrieved from https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/10-types-of-service-dogs-and-what-they-do.

Reisen, J. (2019, July 31). Service Dogs, Working Dogs, Therapy Dogs, Emotional Support Dogs: What’s the Difference? American Kennel Club. Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/service-working-therapy-emotional-support-dogs/

U.S. Dog Registry. (n.d.). Information About Service Dog Registration. Retrieved from https://usdogregistry.org/information/information-on-service-dogs/#

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Sara Quitlag is an Applied Psychologist, with a deep interest in psychopathology and neuropsychology and how psychology impacts and permeates every aspect of our environment. She has worked in Clinical settings (as Special Ed. Counselor, CBT Therapist) and has contributed at local Universities as a Faculty member from time to time. She has a graduate degree in English Literature and feels very connected to how literature and psychology interact. She feels accountable and passionate about making a "QUALITY" contribution to the overall global reform and well-being. She actively seeks out opportunities where she can spread awareness and make a positive difference across the globe for the welfare of our global society.