Service dog trainers teach young dogs with carefully selected personality traits a wide range of tasks that they must master to assist a person with a disability. The specific tasks vary depending on the handler's diagnosis and individual needs, but service dog trainers can teach their canine charges to serve a handler with a mobility, diabetic, autistic, hearing or seizure disorder.
Mobility Assist Dogs help a wheelchair or walker user move more independently. The trainer teaches the dog to hand over dropped items, fetch a cordless phone in case of emergency, open doors, act as a counterbalance for an ambulatory handler who is unsteady, or pull a wheelchair. Diabetes Assist Dogs are taught to alert the handler if blood sugar drops to an unsafe level so that the individual can eat a snack or take proper medical precautions. The dog can also fetch juice or glucose tabs and carries a small backpack with the handler's medical information should the individual fall unconscious in public. Autism Assist Dogs keep young autistic handlers calm in the event of an emotional meltdown. The dog's leash is controlled by an adult, and the dog and child are tethered together. If the child panics and bolts, the dog is trained to sit or lie down so that the child cannot run into harm's way. Hearing Assist Dogs are trained to alert deaf and hard of hearing handlers to sounds that might represent danger or require immediate attention. Examples include a doorbell, a crying infant, a fire alarm, an oven timer or an alarm clock. Seizure Assist Dogs stay close to the handler to offer physical comfort as the individual recovers from a seizure. The dog can bring a phone or get help from a nearby person. Like the Diabetes Assist Dog, the Seizure Assist Dog carries a small pack with emergency medical information. Trainers also reinforce basic obedience and public manners in addition to teaching these specific tasks.