A majority of service dogs come with a warning: do not pet. There is a good reason for that. It’s not because they’ll bite you or anything like that (though that could happen, it’s unlikely).
It’s actually because the dog is working, and on alert, so that he can alert his owner about whatever problem they’ve been trained to recognize. There are service dogs for all sorts of situations. One such type is as a seizure response dog.
Hailey Ashmore has an Australian Shepherd dog named Flynn. He has been trained to open and close doors, alert Hailey’s parents, and also to recognize when Hailey is going to have a seizure. When Flynn was about seven months old, Hailey was visiting her father at work when a stranger stopped to pet Flynn. Flynn was distracted for just enough time to miss the opportunity to warn Hailey about a seizure, and when he did, it was too late. Hailey had asked the stranger to stop as well.
Hailey thought that she had about ten minutes to get to a safe place, take her medication and call somebody for help. Unfortunately, she didn’t have that much time and wound up hitting the floor.
Flynn, being only seven months old, hadn’t yet learned to ignore people that are petting him. Service dogs like him need to be focused all the time.
Here is a brief list of tasks that service dogs can be trained to do:
- Bringing medication to alleviate symptoms
- Medication reminder at a certain time of day
- Bring a beverage so the patient can swallow the medication
- Bring the emergency phone during a crisis
- Provide balance assistance on stairs
- Assist person to rise and steady themselves
- Respond to smoke alarm if partner is unresponsive
- Backpacking medical related supplies or information
- Provide tactile stimulation to disrupt emotional overloads
- Give exterior stimulation to combat neurological damages
- Wake up human partner for work or school
- Lighting up dark rooms
- Keep suspicious strangers away
Different types of service dogs include:
- Assistance dog
- Autism service dog
- Guide dog
- Hearing dog
- Medical response dog
- Mobility assistance dog
- Psychiatric service dog
- Seizure response dog
Images and some of the story via The Dodo