Taking Dogs to Task- Brigadoon Service Dogs News (2018)
One of the key parts of the Americans with Disability Act’s definition of service dogs - dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities – is that the dog must “do work or perform tasks.” This key part differentiates service dogs from emotional support animals and pets. A service dog must be trained to do things that mitigate their handler’s disability (“mitigate” means to lessen the impacts of something).
So true service dogs must perform tasks for their handler, and these tasks must help to address the impacts of the handler’s specific disability.
There are many different tasks a service dog can be trained to do. A dog’s tasks depend on the person’s needs. Here are just some examples of tasks service dogs can perform:
For conditions that limit mobility: Turning on lights, picking up dropped items, opening and closing doors/drawers, pushing handicap buttons, bracing to help support a person when they have fallen, providing physical balance, carrying items, pulling off socks, and more
For diabetes: Alerting to low blood sugar, bringing juice and other needed supplies, getting help (a phone or a family member)
For PTSD: Interrupting nightmares and providing comfort, medication reminders, creating space in public, watching the person’s back in public, alerting to anxiety
For deafness/hardness of hearing: Alerting to sounds (door, fire alarm, etc.)
For autism: Deep pressure therapy (the dog lies across a child to calm them), preventing wandering (keeping a child connected to the dog, alerting parents when a child wanders), interrupting and redirecting distress