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8 Types of Service Dogs & How to Get One

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Dogs are not “just” our beloved family companions, their skills and carefulness make them perfect for assisting people with disabilities and mental health issues.

The most popular service dog is probably the guide dog but there are in fact 8 different types of service dogs that we will discuss now.

1. Allergy Alert Dogs (AAD)

These service dogs are perfect for handlers with severe and deadly allergies like gluten, peanuts, and shellfish.

The dogs are able to sniff these allergens in food and alert the owner.

They also wear vests that are filled with medication in case of an attack. I can only recommend this harness for your service dog.

It has a huge imprint, reflective patches, and bag that you can use to store the medication or any other information that we will talk about later.

Retrievers and german shepherds are usually selected for this type of work.

2. Mobility Assistance Dogs

Large breeds are well known to execute different tasks as mobility assistance dogs.

They are strong enough to pull a wheelchair, carry body weight, open doors, and bring objects when asked.

3. Autism Service Dogs

Services dogs for children and adults with autism perform physical as well as psychiatric tasks.

On one hand, they offer comfort to their handler in stress and on the other they perform daily tasks and can even keep children from running away.

They often carry vests with contact and emergency information.

4. Diabetic Alert Dogs (DAD)

Diabetic alert dogs are able to scent the smallest change in humans blood sugar. He can determine if it is too high or too low before it sets to a critical level.

The owners then know that they should check their blood and inject insulin or consume glucose if needed.

5. Hearing Dogs

These dogs are specifically trained to alert their hearing-impaired owner of important noises.

They will signal their owner the noise and will lead him into the direction. Thus noises can include, ringing at the door, hearing their name and alarms like car honks.

6. Seizure Response Dogs

The training of a seizure response dog not always include alerting a coming seizure although they often learn that over time.

They are taught to respond to a seizure by keeping the owner safe, retrieving medication, getting help from people and setting off alarms.

7. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Service Dogs

People that have experienced a dramatic event in their life are not mentally stable and have lost their sense of safety.

A PTSD service dog can provide its owner with comfort and security to cope with daily life. They will keep them calm and can even remind them of taking their medication.

8. Guide Dogs

Guide dogs are often Golden Retrievers or Labs and might be the oldest form of service dog.

The mostly help visually impaired people to get around obstacles and can alert them if something is in their way.

They often have special handles around their harness so their owners can have a good grip when being lead.

Recommended Reading: Specialized Training Types Explained!

How to Get a Service Dog

Depending on the type of service animal you want to get, there will be different steps that you need to take.

Service Dogs – Service dogs are specifically trained to perform certain tasks that hugely benefit the lives of their owners.

Only dogs are legally considered service animals and are the only ones trained to perform this service.

You will need to get a written document from your psychiatrist or doctor where your mental or physical condition is clearly stated.

The service dog has to be trained tailored to your specific condition.

I would not recommend training a service dog on your own and rather getting one that has already been trained for years from an agency.

Emotional Support Animals ESA – Usually cats and dogs are used as ESAs but it certainly can be any animal.

You will need a signed letter from a psychiatrist or therapist stating that you are suffering from a mental health condition.

An emotional support animal doesn’t need specific training and is allowed on airlines (Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA)) and in apartments with a “no pet” policy (Fair Housing Act (FHA)). But they are not allowed in public places where pets are prohibited.

Psychiatric Service Dog PSD – It is not easy to identify if you will need to get a PSD or an ESA as their tasks are quite similar.

A PSD usually helps people with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. It can help its guardian with some tasks which do not count to the tasks of a service dog.

If you mainly are searching for a companion and you can go about your daily life on your own, then an ESA would be the better choice.

How Much Does a Service Animal Cost?

A service dog is definitely not cheap but there are also agencies that provide them for free to people that are financially not capable off paying for them.

“Free” doesn’t mean that no one had to pay for them.

Usually, a group of people has to do the fundraising and the waitlists for completely funded dogs are very long.

This is why a partial payment would help to fundraise more dogs and you would be able to receive your dog quicker.

One service dog costs an agency $40.000-$60.000 including food, medical bills, and training.

So if you are choosing a partial payment plan it will only cost you about $20.000.

How Long Does it Take to Train a Service Dog?

The answer to this question depends on a lot of factors but you can expect that it will take about 2 years to train a service dog yourself.

You will need to take a few questions into consideration:

  • How old is your dog?
  • What is his current training level and how fast does he learn and adapt to new things?
  • Does he have some behavior problems that will need to be worked on before?
  • Do you have a lot of experience in dog training and handling?
  • What are you training your dog for or what is your training goal?

Do you have a service dog or know someone that has? What are their daily tasks and how do they solve them? Let me know in the comments.

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Disclaimer: This blog post does not substitute veterinary attention and does not intend to do so. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows any sign of illness, call your vet.

About Danielle

Equipped with 5+ years of expertise as a Rottweiler owner, I partner with licensed veterinarians and trainers to share research-backed and actionable advice for you and your furry friend.

Michelle McHenry Edrington

Monday 26th of February 2024

100 percent disabled and 2 strokes. Ì need my 3 year old lab trained so I can stay independent. My current service animal needs to retire. I need a trainer.

Pamela Young

Tuesday 25th of January 2022

I am a disabled person that would like links or information on how to get a service dog. Thank you


Friday 10th of December 2021

My great nephew has type I diabetes and Autism. His mother (my niece) works tirelessly for him. Finger sticks 5 times/day monitoring every aspect of his life. And then the behavioral portion is always there. She is amazing and so is he. I have always wanted to check into this for her! How can I help them find a service dog. I believe it may be an answer to many prayers!!


Sunday 5th of September 2021

I am looking for specific - cardiac alert canine training or my son. We are looking in Charlotte NC I only know one place and they are in Texas and well over 40K and no payment plan options - and that is a huge amount of money for a family who has medical bills for a cardiac child - suggestions... options... starting places to look or investigate?


Monday 6th of September 2021

Hi Tammy, I'm not really familiar with cardiac alert training centers in your area - I'd suggest you just google "cardiac alert dog" + area you're willing to drive to. The pricing depends heavily on the country and while guide dogs are heavily subsidized by the healthcare system, other service dogs are more on a case-by-case basis. Have you checked with your insurance if they cover at least part of it?

40k sounds about right, sadly. Maybe you'll be able to find something as low as 20k but you have to think about all the time and resources it takes to train these dogs. Maybe there is a local foundation for children with these health issues and they might be willing to sponsor service dogs with their donations?

Hope you'll be able to find a great service dog, Danielle


Tuesday 30th of March 2021

Hello my name is Laura and my 6 year old son was just diagnosed with Pyrthes disease. How would I go about getting information on a Mobility Service Dog for him? We live in a Myrtle Beach, SC.


Thursday 1st of April 2021

Hey Laura,

googling Mobility Service dogs reveals quite a lot of information. I'm sorry to say that I don't know any specific address in Myrtle Beach, SC that could help you. The guide dogs for the blind organization is a bit easier to find information for compared to mobility assistance dogs but I'm sure there are articles that cover that as well.

All the best for you and your son, Danielle