Animals and Your Health: Service Dogs

For thousands of years, people have relied on dogs. Dogs have helped with hunting, companionship, survival, and protection. But in the last century, dogs have been helping people cope with certain diseases.

Since the 1920s, dogs have been trained to help people who are blind. Now, dogs aid people with a wider range of conditions. They can even help those with Alzheimer dementia and Parkinson disease.

Service dogs bring many gifts to their owners. The best gift is helping their owners live and work in the modern world.

What Service Dogs Can Do

Many organizations around the world train service dogs. The dogs assist people with many types of disabilities. Some animals pull wheelchairs. Some help their owners get out of bed or into and out of the tub. Others help their owners to do activities more easily. Service dogs have even learned personalized skills. They may flip light switches, pick up items, carry supplies, and open and close doors.

Here are some examples of what service dogs may do:

  • Let (deaf or hard of hearing) owners know about certain sounds, such as:
    • Sirens and alarms
    • The person's name being called
    • Traffic
    • A child crying
  • Provide help with activities, such as:
    • Picking up objects and carrying items in backpacks
    • Helping a person stay balanced while walking
    • Leading people with vision problems around obstacles
  • Ease stress for people with mental or emotional problems
  • Protect people during seizures, and help them adjust after
  • Possibly alert people (and their caregivers) of oncoming seizures

Thinking About a Service Dog?

It is a big decision to get a service dog. Service dogs go through a lot of training. Trainers work with each dog's special strengths. The dogs learn to watch out for their human's special needs and how to help them. Trainers also teach the person how to behave with the dog. This includes what commands and rewards to use.

It is important to get lots of information before deciding. Here are a few things to think about:

  • Cost —Service dog training can run as high as $35,000. See what funding may be available.
  • Care —Service dogs are still dogs. They need veterinary care, feeding, water, walks, and play time.
  • Love for animals —Dogs are not for everyone. They are not for people who are afraid of animals. They are also not for anyone unwilling to care for the dog.

Service dogs give so much to their humans. They deserve the best of care.


National Assistance Dogs


National Service Dogs


Assistance dogs. Paws with a Cause website. Available at: Accessed June 15, 2021.
Assistance dogs terms and definitions. Assistance Dogs International, Inc. website. Available at: Accessed June 15, 2021.
Martellucci S, Belvisi V, et al. Assistance dogs for persons with hearing impairment: A Review. Int Tinnitus J. 2019;23(1):26-30.
Service dogs 101—everything you need to know. American Kennel Club website. Available at: Accessed June 15, 2021.
Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 6/15/2021

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