The adage “every dog has his day” has proven true this month for the hardworking canines that indeed work like a dog. Aug. 4–10 is International Assistance Dog Week, which commends service and working dogs that assist humans in various capacities—and do so with wagging tails and dogged dedication.
The Americans with Disabilities Act defines service dogs as essential assistance for accessibility functions on behalf of individuals with a disability. Therapy dogs and emotional support dogs are not service dogs by law, as they are not indispensable to people capable of autonomy.
Types of Service Dogs
Trained to assist people with low vision or who are blind to navigate in public, also up and down stairs. Golden labradors, labrador retrievers, golden retrievers
Qualified to alert and lead someone who is deaf or hard of hearing to and from sound sources. Labrador and golden retrievers, poodles, cocker spaniels, cockapoos
Perform tasks for wheelchair users and people with reduced motor functions due to arthritis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and spinal cord injuries. Retrievers, German shepherds, standard poodles, American Staffordshire terriers
Work with people dealing with cognitive functioning such as in autism spectrum disorders and other brain conditions. Sociable breeds: Great Pyrenees, Bernese mountain dogs, goldendoodle
Help people with anxiety, trauma-related and other mental disorders that impede general functioning. Bonding breeds: Miniature schnauzers, Havanese, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, retrievers
Perform tasks and provide additional safety to imminent emergencies including seizures, diabetes, heart disease, life-threatening allergens, asthma attacks and more. Many dogs can successfully become certified, but common breeds are: Standard poodles, poodle mixes, retrievers, German shepherds, akitas.
Types of Working Dogs
Police and Military
K9 dogs assist law enforcement and military personnel in the line of duty protecting their handlers; scouting, immobilizing and attacking opposing threat; and relaying audio/visual information from equipment placed on their vests. Daring breeds: Belgian Malinois, German shepherds, labrador retrievers
In law enforcement, they are trained to detect drugs and explosives; in health care, to sense cancer and blood sugar; and in nature, hunting for truffles, mushrooms, and small and large game. Scent-oriented and sporting breeds: Bloodhounds, beagles, English springer spaniels
Search and Rescue
Skilled at tracking; assisting with crime scenes, locating blood and cadavers; avalanche, drowning and collapsed building rescues; and finding missing people. Detection and herding breeds: American pit bull terriers, coonhounds, German shepherds
Strong and loyal dogs that have a natural instinct to be protective of their home and family. Guardian breeds: Doberman pinschers, German shepherds, rottweilers, boxers
Bred and raised to control livestock and compete in agility herding trials. Energetic breeds: border collies, Australian shepherds, Old English sheepdogs
Therapy Dogs versus Emotional Support Dogs
Therapy dogs are trained to provide comfort and affection to their handlers and others in settings such as nursing homes, hospitals, schools and after traumatic events. Their interaction triggers in the brain the release of "feel-good chemicals," or endorphins, lowering anxiety, heart rate and blood pressure.
Emotional support dogs provide untrained therapeutic companionship and do not have access to all public places; however, they can qualify for no-pet housing and fly with an individual. Many property management agencies and airlines request a doctor’s letter for legitimacy.