Seizure Alert Dogs -- and Even More

Small Dogs Can Be So Much More Than Just a Pretty Face

This is Sammy, a proud and pint-sized service dog.

What are Seizure Alert Dogs and other Service Dogs?

I used to think of service dogs as always the size Labs or Goldens, not small dogs. After all, a small dog could hardly lead a blind man across a busy street. But I recently met a small dog named Sammy (see above) and found out that small dogs can make great hearing dogs, mobility dogs, companion assistance dogs and last but not least seizure alert dogs.

What, huh? Let me explain.

Hearing Dogs are working companions for owners with hearing disabilities. They can alert to a phone ringing or someone at the door. They also can let others’ know of their owners’ wishes. Any dog of whatever size that is obedient and eager to work has the potential to make an excellent hearing dog.

Mobility Dogs help their owner with everything from picking up dropped objects to turning on lights and opening doors. Even small dogs can do this – tugs within their reach can be added to light switches and door handles. A larger dog would be needed if the owner needed a dog as a cane or a brace of course.

Companion Assistance Dogs can help their owners get through difficult and emotional times. People that otherwise wouldn’t be able to leave home, for example, can really benefit from a canine security blanket.

You can’t train Seizure Alert Dogs. Some dogs, large or small, natively sense when a seizure is coming and alert their owner. They can also let medical authorities know and take care of their person until the paramedics arrive.

Tonya Kaplish writes this about her own dog:

“ I have a five pound Chihuahua named Harley. He is very smart. I have seizures from a brain tumor I had removed in 2009. But I still have a hole that is not healed and it causes me to have seizures everyday. One evening I was in my room lying down, I started to have a seizure and called for help, No one heard me. So I told Harley to go get Daddy, he went down stairs 3 times and barked for them to come help me. No one came. But Harley kept trying and stood at the top of the stairs barking. I had my seizure and I was ok, but my entire body locks up every time, my arms curl up and stay that way until someone helps me out of it. So Harley started to nudge his little wet nose under my arms to get them open. Then I told him to get my husband again. Would you believe that Harley stood on my legs and barked over and over and never left me? My husband thought Harley was just playing as usual.

“Later I told him: ‘Listen to the dog sometimes because he was helping me. He may be little, but it just goes to show that size doesn't matter.’”

I met Sammy coming through Security at the airport the other day. He was a 5 pound Yorkie under the arm of his 60’s something owner. Lots of owners fly with their dogs these days but then I saw that he had a harness that proudly proclaimed him as a Service Dog.

How absolutely cool! His owner and I chatted while putting our shoes back on.

“Can I take Sammy’s picture?”

The lady and her Yorkie rushed off right after the photo, before explaining exactly what kind of therapy dog he was, but I still found Mr. Sammy’s job fascinating.

I have been asked by several people “Can my small dog become a service dog to help me with my disability?”

The answer is yes…. maybe.

There are internet deals out there that promote turning your pet into a service dog, even if you have no real disability. That’s not a good idea, and the law is pretty clear on this. It’s in awful taste as well. How would you feel about someone who pretended to be blind so he could use a seeing-eye dog?

The actual requirements are:

1. You must have a signed and current letter from your doctor stating what your disability is.

2. Your dog must be successfully trained in whatever task he needs to do to assist you. Scammy internet certification mills that don’t require actual training are a waste of money.

Basically you need a trainer, and your dog needs to learn his needed tasks. An excellent further resource on this is:

How to Choose Your Service or Assistance Dog Program.

Get additional tips from Delta's National Service Dog Center under:

Consumer Information for People Considering a Service Dog.

Seizure Alert Dogs and all the other kinds of service dogs can be life saving to people with disabilities. And yes, they can also be small dogs. Just ask Sammy!

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