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what do service dogs do
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Welcome to the Huge List of Service Dog Tasks

Under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) laws for public access rights, service dogs must be individually trained for a person with a disability to do certain “work” or “tasks.” The “work” or “tasks” that the dog does must be directly related to the disability. So, what are these “work” or “tasks?” There are an almost unlimited amount of potential service dog tasks. This is because there are many unique disabilities and people require a wide-ranging assortment of assistance from their trained service dog. Here are just a few examples of service dog work or tasks .

list of service dog tasks
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Multipurpose Service Dog “Eri” @eri_servicedog
  1. Navigate around obstacles like a pillar, lamp post, parking meters, hazards like an open manhole & potholes
  2. Navigate around low hanging obstacles such as tree branches or awnings
  3. Avoid moving objects like people, bicycles, wheelchairs, shopping carts, strollers
  4. Intelligent Disobedience is when a dog refuses a command to go forward into the road if it would be dangerous, like if there is traffic. The dog is also trained to stop abruptly, rather than collide with a vehicle that intersects the team’s path when it enters the intersection during the crossing
  5. Stop or Sit to indicate every curb
  6. Stop to indicate the top of a flight of stairs
  7. Stop to indicate steps going up
  8. Stop to warn of edge of a train platform
  9. Stop to warn of approach to edge of cliffs, ditches, and other outdoor dangerous drop-off areas
  10. Stop when confronted by a barrier like a construction site
  11. Intelligent disobedience – refuse a command to go forward if there is a drop off area or danger
  12. Find the exit from a room and indicate the door knob
  13. Find an elevator
  14. Find entrances and/or exits
  15. Find an empty seat, bench, or unoccupied space
  16. Find a seat in a classroom
  17. Follow a designated person, like a waiter to restaurant table
  18. Locate specified destination such as store in mall or hotel room
  19. Retrieve dropped objects
  20. Find desired object like a newspaper on the porch or driveway
  21. Alerting to the door bell or knock on front door, patio door or window
  22. Alerting to smoke or fire alarm
  23. Alerting to timer going off
  24. Alerting to a crying baby or child
  25. Alerting to a family member or someone else calling the name of the handler
  26. Alerting to a child calling the partner’s name or another word
  27. Alerting to a ringing phone
  28. Alerting to an alarm clock
  29. Alerting to computer equipment beeping
  30. Alerting to a horn honking in a garage or driveway
  31. Alerting to the arrival of a school bus
  32. Alerting to a police, fire, or ambulance siren
  33. Alerting to phone ringing on handler’s desk at work, distinguished from all other phones in the workplace
  34. Alerting to the name of handler if a coworker, friend, family member or another person calls out the name
  35. Alert to a cell phone ringing
  36. Alert to a fire drill at school or work
  37. Alert to a vehicle honking its horn
  38. Retrieve dropped objects that the handler didn’t hear, such as keys, coins, or other objects
  39. The dog can enter the home first when arriving home at night, to turn on a light
  40. The dog can carry a note from the handler to another household member, and search the area to find the other person
  41. Dogs can carry messages between two people, using objects to signify important events, like lunch is ready, or that someone needs help
  42. Service dogs can be sent to find and return with the hearing impaired person
  43. Alert to a vehicle approaching from behind, or making a sudden turn
  44. Bring a phone to any room in house
  45. Carry groceries
  46. Unload grocery items
  47. Fetch a beverage from a fridge or cupboard
  48. Fetch food
  49. Pick up dropped items like coins, keys etc., in any location
  50. Bring clothes, shoes, or slippers to help with dressing
  51. Unload laundry from laundry machines
  52. Retrieve purse or bag from certain location like hall, room, desk, dresser or back of vehicle
  53. Help to tidy house or yard – pickup, carry, deposit specified items
  54. Fetch basket with medication or beverage
  55. Retrieve a specific pair of shoes from a closet
  56. Laser pointers can be used to target an item to be retrieved
  57. Drag Cane from its usual location to another room
  58. Pick up and return cane if falls off the back of the wheelchair
  59. Pickup or fetch crutches
  60. Drag walker back to partner
  61. Fetch wheelchair when out of reach
  62. Move bucket from one location to another
  63. Carry a basket of items to another location in the house
  64. Transport items downstairs or upstairs
  65. Carry items from the handler to another person in another room
  66. Send the dog to obtain food or another item from a caregiver and return with it
  67. Pay for purchases at high counters
  68. Transfer items in a bag from a clerk to a wheelchair user’s lap
  69. Carry mail or newspaper into the house
  70. Put trash, junk mail into a basket, bin, or garbage can
  71. Deposit empty cans or bottles into recycling bin
  72. Help handler to load clothing into top loading washing machine
  73. Put dirty dog food bowl into kitchen sink
  74. Put other nonbreakable items into the kitchen sink
  75. Deliver items to a closet
  76. Deposit dog toys into a specified container
  77. Put prescription bag, mail, and other items on counter top
  78. Open cupboard doors with an attached strap
  79. Open drawers with a strap
  80. Open fridge door with a strap or suction cup
  81. Open interior doors via a strap with a device to turn knob
  82. Answer doorbell and open the front door with a strap attached to lever handle
  83. Open or close sliding glass door with a strap or other tug devices
  84. Shut restroom door that opens outward via a leash tied to the doorknob
  85. Close stall door that opens outward in restroom by delivering end of the leash to handler
  86. Shut interior home doors that open outward
  87. Shut motel room exterior door that opens inward
  88. Assist to remove shoes, slippers, sandals, and other footwear
  89. Tug socks off without biting down on the feet
  90. Remove slacks, sweater, coat, and other clothing items
  91. Drag heavy coat, sweater, and other items to a closet
  92. Drag laundry basket to a different location in the house or home with a strap
  93. Drag bedding and other items to a washing machine
  94. Carry a bag or other objects from a vehicle into the home
  95. Pull a drapery cord to open or close drapes
  96. Assist to close motel room drapes by tugging on edge
  97. Operate rope device that lifts blanket and sheet or re-covers handler when he or she becomes the wrong temperature
  98. Nudge shut cupboard drawers
  99. Nudge shut dryer door
  100. Push shut the stove drawer
  101. Close dishwasher door
  102. Close with nudge the fridge & freezer door
  103. Call 911 on K-9 dog rescue phone by pushing the button
  104. Operate button or push plate on commercial doors
  105. Turn on light switches
  106. Push floor pedal device to turn on lamp
  107. Help a wheelchair user to regain sitting position if slumped over
  108. Help put a paralyzed arm back onto the armrest of wheelchair
  109. Return paralyzed foot to the foot board of a wheelchair if it is dislodged
  110. Close cupboard door with one paw
  111. Close dryer door with one paw
  112. Close fridge & freezer door with one or both paws
  113. Call 911 on K-9 dog rescue phone with one paw
  114. Operate light switch on wall by jumping up and pawing the switch
  115. Depress floor pedal device to turn on appliance or lamp
  116. Jump up to paw elevator button
  117. Close heavy front door, other doors – jump up, use both paws
  118. Transfer assistance from wheelchair to bed, toilet, bathtub or van seat
  119. Help to walk step by step, brace between each step, from wheelchair to seat
  120. Position self and brace to help partner catch balance after partner rises from a couch or other seats in a home or public setting
  121. Prevent fall by bracing on command if the partner needs help recovering balance
  122. Steady handler getting in or out of the bathtub or shower
  123. Help handler to turn over in bed
  124. Pull up handler with a strap, from floor to feet on command, then brace until handler catches balance
  125. Assist moving wheelchair and avoiding obstacles
  126. Work cooperatively with handler to get the wheelchair up a curb cut or mild incline
  127. Haul open heavy door, holding it open using six foot lead attached to back of harness, other end of lead attached to door handle or to a suction cup device on a glass door
  128. Tow ambulatory partner up inclines – harness with rigid handle or pull strap may be used
  129. Brace on command to prevent ambulatory handler from stumbling – with rigid handle
  130. Help ambulatory handler to climb stairs, pulling then bracing on each step
  131. Pull handler out of aisle seat on plane, then brace until handler catches balance
  132. Brace, counter balance work too, assisting ambulatory handler to walk
  133. Help ambulatory partner to walk short distances, bracing between each step with a rigid handle
  134. Transport books, supplies or other items up to 50 lbs in a wagon or cart
  135. Backpacking – usual weight limit is 15% of the dog’s total body weight and 10% if the dog is performing another task
  136. Bark for help
  137. Find the a care giver or specific person and lead back to the location of the handler
  138. Put forepaws in lap of wheelchair user, hold that upright position so wheelchair user can access items in a backpack or bag
  139. Wake up partner if smoke or fire alarm goes off, and help them to nearest exit
  140. Operate push button device to call 911, an ambulance service or another person to help in a crisis; let emergency staff into home and show the handler’s location
  141. Fetch an insulin kit, respiratory device or medication from a specific location during a medical crisis
  142. Lie down on partner’s chest to produce a cough, enabling patient to breathe
  143. Alert to an allergen in food or in the area
  144. Alert to an intruder
  145. Assist with grounding the handler
  146. Assist with position changes – sitting to standing, etc.
  147. Counter-balance
  148. Provide momentum in a wheelchair, when walking, up inclines or stairs
  149. Pulling a wheelchair
  150. Answering the door
  151. Block approaching people or animals
  152. Call suicide hotline from a dog-friendly phone
  153. Check the house for safety before handler enters
  154. Put items from the floor into a basket
  155. Find a bathroom or another specific room
  156. Find an empty seat
  157. Find the vehicle
  158. Pull blinds and curtains open and closed
  159. Crowd control
  160. Deliver credit card or money to a cashier
  161. Find a specific person
  162. Crying interruption, or response
  163. DPT (Deep Pressure Therapy)
  164. Flashback interruptions
  165. Help the handler sit up if slumped over
  166. High blood sugar alert
  167. Interrupting dissociation and freezing behaviours
  168. Interrupting harmful or repetitive behaviours like picking or scratching
  169. Diabetic Alert
  170. Medication reminders
  171. Interrupting a nightmare
  172. Panic or anxiety alert
  173. Providing distraction
  174. Provide pressure on chest to produce cough
  175. Respond to anxious behaviours
  176. Routine reminders
  177. Tactile stimulation
  178. Retrieve emergency medication

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Sam is an experienced writer, advocate for people with disabilities and mental health, dog lover, artist, philosopher, and generally complicated human being.

The Huge List of Service Dog Tasks – 178 Real-World Examples

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