Assistance and Service Dogs

Dogs have been man’s best friend for a long time. In some cases, they are more than just pets, becoming integral for some people. This happens when people service dogs which are specially trained to help make their daily life easier. Assistance and service dogs are not just members of the family; they actually improve people’s quality of life.

Guide Dogs

Guide dogs are dogs that assist humans who are either completely blind or severely visually impaired. They are used to help guide these people around obstacles, ensuring that they stay safe. People often liken the relationship to that of a pilot with an airplane where the human is the plane, knowing how to get to a certain destination and the dog is the pilot who gets the owner there safely. Golden retrievers, Labradors, and German Shepherds are the breeds most often used as guide dogs.

  • Service Dogs: This page provides general information about service dogs including a large section of information all about dogs for the blind.
  • Guide Dog Schools: This page includes a large list of links to guide dog schools and organizations.
  • Guide Dogs for the Blind: The website of an organization devoted to helping those who need guide dogs get the help they need to obtain a guide dog of their own.
  • Information about Guide Dogs: The National Association of Guide Dog Users provides information about guide dog access legislation and guide dog training programs.

Hearing Dogs

Hearing dogs are dogs that assist people who are hearing impaired or completely deaf. They alert people to important sounds like phones, alarm clocks, smoke alarms, and doorbells. Some dogs operate outside the home, reacting to horns, sirens, forklifts, and other noises. Hearing dog training can take as little as three months and as long as a year.

  • International Hearing Dog, Inc: This link goes to the official website of International Hearing Dog, Inc, an organization devoted to hearing dogs.
  • Dogs for the Deaf: The Dogs for the Deaf organization is one that specializes in connecting hearing dogs with owners.

Service Dogs

Service dogs are any kind of dogs that are trained to help humans. The most common are guide dogs and hearing dogs which assist humans in getting to places safely. There are also therapy dogs that are trained to provide comfort and affection for people in hospitals, schools or nursing homes. This is a proven method of reducing both pain and stress, one of the reasons why therapy dogs are also used in disaster areas. These dogs are trained to be patient, confident, and tolerate human contact.

  • Assistance Dog Information Page: This website provides links to many different information sites and organizations around the country dealing with assistance and service dogs.

Interacting with Assistance Dogs

Although service dogs are trained to never attack humans, they should be respected as work animals, not pets, when they are working. They are trained to avoid distractions and only act with permission from their owners. Permission has to be obtained from the owner before interacting with the dog.


Most dogs receive training from puppyhood. They usually enter a foster program where they are heavily socialized so that they are comfortable with people and other animals. They also receive basic training such as toilet training, learning to sit, stay, walk, and leash training. Once they reach a certain age, they are evaluated for temperament and begin advanced training when they learn special commands. Then, they are exposed to situations where they are expected to protect their owner.

  • Assistance Dogs and Training: This page provides a large list of links to pages with information on the general training issues of assistance dogs.
  • Raising Guide Dog Puppies: This page that shows the process of raising puppies to be guide dogs and the role of the puppy raiser.
  • Training Your Own Dog: Ways to train your own service dogs and the advantages of doing so are included on this page.
  • Service Dog Training: This webpage illustrates what goes into training a service dog and how you can become a dog trainer.

Accessibility Laws

Accessibility laws are different in each country and region but service dogs are legally protected by an act called the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. They are permitted in general public places like a restaurant, movie theater, or taxi. Private clubs, churches, and military bases are some of the exceptions. Stores are allowed to deny service dog access if the dog behaves badly and owners are required to pay for any damage their service dog causes. For the most part, service dogs can go anywhere their owners go.

  • Service Dog Laws: This page outlines all the important laws concerning service dogs protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act.
  • Service Animal FAQs: The answers to common questions about service animal laws, interacting with service animals, and information on what to do when service animals arrive at your business are provided on this page.

The Life of a Service Dog

Most service dogs “work” for eight years although some may work past ten. They require lots of exercise and mental stimulation. However, they do get a chance to just be dogs. They are taught that they must behave a certain way when their service gear is on but once it’s off, they are just themselves. Once the gear is gone, he’s just another member of the family. When a dog is “retired,” most often it stays with the family that it worked for.

Additional Information

Here are links to sites with further information about service dogs.

  • Hearing Dogs for the Deaf: This page provides links to many other sites related to hearing dogs.
  • Therapy Dogs: This page discusses therapy dogs and how they differ from other service dogs.
  • Psychiatric Service Dog Society: The website of the Psychiatric Service Dog Society, a society involved with assistance and service dogs.
  • US Service Registry: This website provides the ability for owners of service dogs to register them in the United States Service Dog Registry.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sammye Darling May 22, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Hi Katie,

Have you checked out Texas Service Dogs in Austin TX?


Katie Mathis May 14, 2013 at 2:41 pm

Hi! I am looking for a dog to assist a man with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He is a refugee from Iraq and saw his family killed by terrorists. He is gentle, kind, and speaks no English. We are willing to pay for a dog- up to $7,000. We are looking in Texas, but have not found anything. There are organizations for veterans and such, but we are looking for a local company that is open to more than just veterans. Can you point us to any companies. (We’ve spent lots of time googling and searching on the internet.)
Thank you! 🙂
Katie Mathis

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