What Does A Service Dog Vest Mean?

Updated: Feb 22, 2021

Since ancient times, dogs have been serving people in almost everything from hunting to protection and much more. People want to know, Is there any difference between a service dog and a normal dog? Moreover, they’re curious to know whether an average dog can also be honored with wearing a service dog vest. Therefore, we have compiled this detailed guide to discuss everything you need to know about service dogs. We’ll delve into the details surrounding what a service dog is, the different types of service dogs, the best breeds for a service dog, and what they do.

What Is a Service Dog?

Service dogs are special dogs that are trained to help their owners with disabilities. These disabilities in owners can be intellectual, sensory, physical, mental, or psychiatric. Service dogs love to help them perform everyday tasks. Some of them are specifically trained to help people with diabetes or PTSD.

Service dogs not only make their owner’s lives easier, they also become loving friends. Furthermore, service dogs can go to places where other animals are restricted because of the full public access rights they have. These areas include such places as public transportation, restaurants, and libraries. There are various types of service dogs, and they are each trained for different jobs.

What Are Service Dogs Used for?

The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) defines them as ‘dogs that are trained to perform specific tasks, and they are ideal for working with people with disabilities’. As mentioned earlier, the disability can be of any type. So, a service dog’s work is related to the owner’s disability need(s). Service dogs can be trained to do the following tasks:

  • Help blind people navigate the world.

  • Detect and reduce a given psychiatric episode’s effects.

  • Help deaf people with tasks such as signaling when people knock on the door.

  • Help people in wheelchairs by fetching things that they can’t reach. Moreover, they help them by bringing items they need.

  • Recognize seizures and stand guard over their owners during an episode.

  • Help autistic owners and those who can’t distinguish sensory signals recognize things such as a smoke alarm. Moreover, they’re useful for alerting their owners about overstimulation.

Characteristics Service Dogs Must Have?

Dogs have far more smelling senses than humans. In fact, their nasal receptors are 10,000 times more powerful than humans. Any dog breed used as a service dog must have the following characteristics:


Service dogs have to perform complex tasks, so they must have intelligence, and they must be good at decision-making.

A desire to work

A dog can only become a service dog if it’s willing to work happily. For example, a dog feels happy when you take it on a walk or to the park for exercise.

Calm demeanor

Service dogs must have a calm demeanor as not to cause disturbances in public.

Friendly nature

Service dogs must have a friendly nature and feel comfortable with other animals and people.

Loving nature

Service dogs must have the capability to make a strong bond with humans. A dog with a loving disposition can best serve your needs.

Best Service Dog Breeds

We mentioned above the types of service dogs. Now, we’ll discuss the service dog breeds that can perform these services.

dog breeds

1. Labradors

2. German Shepherds

3. Boxers

4. Golden Retrievers

5. Poodles

6. Great Danes

7. Border Collies

8. Pomeranians

9. Bernese Mountain Dogs

10. Portuguese Water Dogs

1. Labradors

Both the American and English Labradors are friendly, intelligent, and eager to please their owners. As probably the easiest breed to train in all service types, they are widely thought to be the best all-around service dogs.

2. German Shepherds

German Shepherds are known as protector dogs and are easy to train. Moreover, they’re known for their loyalty and obedience. These large, agile, and intelligent dogs can handle any situation they encounter without fault. Their confidence, loyalty, and courageous traits make them the perfect companions. They’re good family pets for many reasons. They’re easy to maintain, but frequent brushing is required to get rid of loose hairs. These traits are the reason that they are so often chosen as police and military K9’s.

3. Boxers

They’re loyal to their owners. They have all the characteristics that a service dog must-have. Additionally, they’re playful and friendly. These dogs are known for their good looks, intelligence and are among the most popular dog breeds in America. Boxers can move like athletes. They’re ideal dogs for families with kids. They don’t need frequent bathing, and their grooming needs are not minimal.

4. Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers are kid-friendly and even-tempered. This dog breed is bred to carry and retrieve objects. It stands among the most popular dog breeds of America. They can be used for various tasks like search and rescue and guide dogs. You can enjoy their company when you’re at home. This medium-sized dog has a dense and lustrous coat. During heavy shedding, you need to brush them daily to get rid of dead hairs.

5. Poodles

These intelligent dogs are easy to train. They have strong instincts. Poodles are active, and they love to have some fun. A poodle is an elegant, impressive, and intelligent dog breed. This talented dog is suitable for all families because of its affectionate behavior. They’re easily trainable, and you can ask them to perform any task. Therefore, they’re known as emotional service dogs even before proper service dog training. They require a loving and trainable family.

6. Great Danes

Great Danes are quite giant, but they have a gentle disposition. Because of their strength and sturdiness, these dogs are suitable for people who need mobility assistance. It’s not easy to maintain these giants, but they’re a joy to live with. Their coats come in different colors and patterns. They’re sweet-natured dogs but can still be used as guardians. They can quickly become friends with people.

7. Border Collies

These full of energy dogs are quick learners. They are intelligent and intuitive problem solvers and have unlimited energy and stamina. These intelligent dogs are easily trainable. Moreover, these obedient dogs can be great family companions. They require mental and physical exercise to stay fit. These dogs can keep you on your toes all the time.

8. Pomeranians

Pomeranians are social and extrovert dogs. They’re quick learners and suitable for small spaces. No other dog can compete with him in agility, obedience, and love. They look small, but they love to challenge large dogs. They bark a lot, but still, they’re apartment-friendly pets.

9. Bernese Mountain Dogs

These Mountain Dogs have a friendly nature and are always willing to please their owners. They’re easy to train and loyal to their handlers. These dogs are versatile working dogs. They can assist people with disabilities. Moreover, they can be faithful companions and good watchdogs.

10. Portuguese Water Dogs

These obedient dogs are gentle with kids. Moreover, they’re curious and love to learn new things. They’re athletic and eager companions. They have low-shedding curls. This hypoallergenic dog breed requires extensive and regular grooming. These intelligent dogs are easy to train.

9 Types of Services Dogs

Service dogs can provide a wide variety of services. Some of the most common types of service dogs are:

service dog guide

1. Guide Dogs

2. Hearing Dogs

3. Diabetic Alert Dogs

4. FASD Service Dogs

5. Autism Support Dogs

6. Seizure Response Dogs

7. Allergy Detection Dogs

8. Psychiatric Service Dogs

9. Mobility Assistance Dogs

Many service dog breeds offer different benefits. Let’s explore each service dog type in detail.

1. Guide Dogs

Guide dogs are the most commonly known type of service dogs. Moreover, they’re ideal for low vision and blind people because they help them navigate the world. These dogs usually wear a harness held by their owners instead of a vest.

They’re different from other service dogs as they practice selective disobedience. Guide dogs follow commands, and they are intelligent enough to take action based on the current situation. For example, if the blind person asks them to cross the road, they’ll refuse if cars are coming. The best guide dogs are Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Labradors.

All these dog breeds need the training to become guide dogs. If the pet owners also have a dog allergy, they would need to go with a Poodle or Labradoodle because both of these breeds are hypoallergenic.

2. Hearing Dogs

Hearing dogs are trained to assist deaf partners. Dogs get a particular cue and inform their partners to move towards that noise. Some of these cues include door knocking, doorbells, fire alarms, alarm clocks, phones, and even their deaf owner’s name.

These supporting dogs increase their partner’s awareness and independence in both homes and out of the house. Common dogs breed used as hearing dogs are poodles, golden retrievers, and Labradors. They don’t require a particular outfit.

3. Diabetic Alert Dogs

These types of service dog breeds are trained to inform their partner about potential sugar level issues. When the dog alerts its owner, the owner knows to test their blood and ingest glucose or inject insulin for adjusting their blood sugar levels. They’re also similar to other assistance dogs in offering their owners security and independence.

Furthermore, these dogs are intelligent and trained to inform people in the house if someone needs medical assistance. Some dog breeds are capable of calling 911 on a special alert phone. Additionally, these dogs carry emergency protocols in their vest that let first responders know the potential problems the owner could be facing.

4. FASD Service Dogs

These service dogs are best for children diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs). FASD is caused by mothers who heavily drink during pregnancy. These children may have mental and physical difficulties and struggle to learn new things. Moreover, they have behavioral issues as well. FASD Service Dogs are not popular dogs, but are rising in the scenes slowly. They’re trained like Autism service dogs to interrupt repetitive behavior.

5. Autism Support Dogs

These types of service dogs are for people who struggle to navigate social settings. They are mostly paired with children. People with autism find it difficult to read social cues. Autism support dogs act as icebreakers and ideal for people with autism to provide a sense of comfort and predictability.

Furthermore, these dogs help children connect with their classmates; thus, their confidence gets increased. They also provide judgment-free companionship and love. As a result, people with autism can keep their emotions under control and improve their communication.

Autism support dogs are trained explicitly for preventing children who have autism from running away. They also can sense harmful behavior and let the parents know about the potentially dangerous situation. If their owner is non-verbal and young, these dogs must carry emergency protocols in the vest.

6. Seizure Response Dogs

These dogs help their partners before, during, and after the attack. They can:

  • Find help for their partner by calling 911 with a K-9 alert phone.

  • Keep moving their person physically if they have a seizure at an unsafe place.

  • Bring medicine for their person after an attack.

  • Allow partners to regain their consciousness after a seizure.

  • Use stimulation to end the seizure of their partner early.

There are different opinions of people about training dogs to alert about seizures. Some say that it’s possible to train seizure alert dogs and others feel that it is something that dogs naturally have.

7. Allergy Detection Dogs

Allergy Detection Dogs are specifically trained to alert people about hazardous allergies from allergen odors, such as gluten, eggs, and peanuts. Food allergies are increasing day-by-day, and people can go into anaphylactic shock after touching even a minute amount of the allergen. These dogs can detect the odor of harmful allergens and alert their owners before they ever make contact with them.

Children are more prone to suffer from severe food allergies than adults, so they are mostly paired with children. Allergy detection dogs give comfort and security to the parents and provide independence to kids. Most of these dogs wear vests with pockets that contain medication and medical information. These vests also include a patch to redirect responders to the pocket in case of an emergency.

8. Psychiatric Service Dogs

These service dogs are unique because they’re trained to help partners suffering from psychiatric issues such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. They can sense the change in their owner, especially when the partner is about to experience negative symptoms like flashbacks or an anxiety attack.

These dogs are beneficial for people suffering from anxiety and depression, and they can take them out of that world. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be caused by many different situations such as child abuse, rape, and war. A PTSD Dog acts as a barrier between other people and their owners and provides them with personal space.

Psychiatric Service Dogs are different from therapy and emotional support dogs. They need extensive training to offer their services psychiatric support.

Mobility Assistance Dogs

These dogs are helpful for people with disabilities who struggle to do their everyday tasks. Examples of these tasks can be opening doors, retrieving objects, turning on lights, and pressing door buttons. These dogs are ideal for people who’re suffering from:

  • Arthritis

  • Brain injuries

  • Spinal cord injuries

  • Muscular dystrophy

  • Cerebral palsy

Mobility support dogs are trained to help owners struggling with balance issues. These dogs are typically a large breed that can easily support their disabled partners. Moreover, they wear a specifically designed harness to help their owners.

Some dogs are trained to help partners in wheelchairs. These dogs can help in doing tasks like transferring chairs, beds, opening the door, moving bathtubs, and retrieve objects. These dogs are typically above 55 pounds. A unique service dog vest harness allows them to pull the wheelchair of their owners. Golden retrievers and Great Danes are known as good mobility assistance dogs.

Is There any Difference Between Service Dogs and Working Dogs?

Both of these dogs are mostly similar, with slight differences. Service dogs perform more tasks than working dogs. Working dogs are trained to perform various functions for assisting their human companions. They can be used for hunting, rescue, military, and detection tasks. These dogs rely on their powerful nose receptors. Some jobs performed by working dogs are given below:

1. Search and rescue

People who get lost during disasters can be found by using these dogs. They use scent to find people and objects. These dogs are helpful in situations like cadaver searches, disasters, and downing situations. Bloodhounds are typically used for these tasks.

2. Explosives detection

Police and military use these dogs to locate explosives and dangerous materials. These dogs are extensively trained to locate and identify different types of explosives. German shepherd dogs are ideal working dogs for these tasks.

3. Cancer detection dogs

Nowadays, dogs are smart enough to detect cancer in patients by sniffing blood or urine samples. Labrador retrievers are ideal for this task. Moreover, these dogs can detect cancer with up to 97% accuracy.

Final Words

Not all dog breeds can be service dogs; therefore, we have compiled this guide to help you learn about the different types of service dogs. Different dog breeds perform different tasks, so they’re trained accordingly. We have also covered the best dog breeds that can be used as service dogs.

If you’re interested in buying a service dog, I hope this guide helped give you a better understanding so you can purchase the right one according to your needs. These service dogs have proven themselves useful for people with disabilities. Nobody can deny the benefits and services that dogs offer to their partners or owners.


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