The Giant List of Service Dog Tasks

The Giant List of Service Dog Tasks

One of the first things you should explore when deciding if a Service Dog is the right choice for you or not, is what tasks a dog could learn and perform to mitigate your disabilities. This can be overwhelming, especially if you have never owned or trained a dog before.

The best way to start this process is to meet with your family and your doctors, and determine what things you cannot do for yourself (or cannot do safely) because of your disabilities. Spend some time thinking about your daily life and brainstorm a prioritized list. Once you have your list you can go through and make a note of what a dog could be trained to do to help you with each item on your list.

It can be very tempting to do what is called “task shopping”. This is where a person picks and chooses Service Dog tasks from other handlers’ task lists, even if they don’t necessarily need those tasks to mitigate their own disabilities. Remember, in order for a dog to be considered a Service Dog under the ADA, the tasks that they perform must be directly related to and mitigate their disabled handler’s disabilities. Just because a behavior is on a list like the one on this page, does not make it a task. You can feel free to teach your dog extra tricks to help you or make you feel better, but these tricks will not count as tasks and do not make your dog a Service Dog.

Remember, in order for a dog to be considered a Service Dog under the ADA, the tasks that they perform must be directly related to and mitigate their disabled handler’s disabilities.

The purpose of this task list is to show the amazing things that Service Dogs can do to help their handlers. If you are not sure what Service Dogs are capable of learning, this list is a great place to start! Dogs can be trained to perform complex behaviors that many people wouldn’t believe.

Not all of these tasks are safe for all dogs to attempt. Behaviors such as bracing**, forward momentum, counter-balance, assisting with transfers, pulling wheelchairs and others require a large enough dog whose growth plates have closed and has undergone a full physical assessment (including X-Rays) by a veterinary professional. Please do not begin training any tasks until discussing your dog’s readiness to safely do so with a trainer and your vet.

The behaviors in this list are purposely not arranged by disability, symptom, or condition. Every person’s situation presents differently and what mitigates one individual’s disability may not mitigate the same limitation for another person. Similarly, a specific behavior has the potential to mitigate a wide variety of disabilities.

*Quite a few of these tasks involve an Alert. An Alert can be many different behaviors and it is important to consider that not all alert behaviors are appropriate for all situations (ex. barking in a library). When choosing an Alert behavior you should carefully think of all the places your Alert could occur and choose accordingly. Some possible alerts are: Nose Bumping Hands, Nose Bumping a Knee, Licking Hands, Pawing a Knee, Bowing, Spinning in Place, Resting Chin on a Knee, Retrieving a Bringsel, and many more…

** After consulting with the Veterinary Orthopedic Society and other experts in veterinary orthopedics and veterinary orthopedic sports medicine, we have come to the joint conclusion that bracing is not a safe practice under any circumstance. Thus we have removed it from our list of tasks. 

The Giant List of Service Dog Tasks

  1. Alert Family Member
  2. Alert Handler to Another Person or Child Crying/Calling/Yelling
  3. Alert for Help
  4. Alert to Alarm
  5. Alert to Allergen in Food
  6. Alert to Allergen in the Area
  7. Alert to Approaching Car
  8. Alert to Car Horn
  9. Alert to Dangerous Medical Levels in the Body (Blood Pressure, Cortisol, etc) *It has not been scientifically proven that these can be trained.
  10. Alert to Doorbell/Knocking
  11. Alert to Handler’s Name
  12. Alert to Intruder
  13. Alert to Person Coming Up Behind
  14. Alert to Phone
  15. Alert to Seizure *It has not been scientifically proven that this can be trained.
  16. Alert to Siren
  17. Alert to Sounds
  18. Alert to Unheard Dropped Item
  19. Answer the Door
  20. Assist with Grounding
  21. Assist with Position Changes (Sitting to Standing, Laying to Sitting, etc)
  22. Assist with Transfers
  23. Avoid Moving Objects (while guiding)
  24. Block
  25. Block from Moving Towards Danger (busy road, away from home, etc)
  26. Bring a Note to Person
  27. Call 911 on a Dog-Friendly Phone
  28. Call Pre-Programmed Number on a Dog-Friendly Phone
  29. Call Suicide Hotline on a Dog-Friendly Phone
  30. Carry Grocery Bags
  31. Carry Purse
  32. Carry Items Up or Down Stairs
  33. Check the House
  34. Clean Up Items on the Floor (put in basket)
  35. Clean Up Trash on the Floor (put in wastebasket)
  36. Clear a Room (enter ahead of handler and check for intruders)
  37. Close Washer/Dryer (with paw or nose)
  38. Close Bathroom Stall Door
  39. Closing Doors (pulling closed with tug)
  40. Closing Doors (pushing closed with nose or paws)
  41. Counter-Balance
  42. Cover
  43. Crowd Control (circling)
  44. Crying Interruption/Response
  45. DPT (Deep Pressure Therapy)
  46. Deliver Credit Card or Money to a Cashier
  47. Deliver Items from Cashier to Handler
  48. Deliver Item to Person
  49. Drag Heavy Items to Specific Location
  50. Drag Laundry Basket
  51. Find Handler
  52. Find a Bathroom
  53. Find a Specific Person
  54. Find Assigned Seat (at school, work, etc)
  55. Find Elevator/Stairs/Escalator
  56. Find Empty Seat
  57. Find the Car
  58. Find Disabled Handler (runners, wanderers, lost handler)
  59. Flashback Interruption
  60. Follow Designated Person
  61. Forward Momentum (in a wheelchair)
  62. Forward Momentum (when walking)
  63. Go Find Help
  64. Guide Home
  65. Guide to an Exit
  66. Guide to Specific Item
  67. Guide to Specific Location
  68. Guide to Specific Person
  69. Guide to a Safe Place
  70. Guiding
  71. Help Sit Up if Slumped Over
  72. Help With Turning Over
  73. High Blood Sugar Alert
  74. Indicate Barrier (while guiding)
  75. Indicate Curbs (while guiding)
  76. Indicate Drop-Offs (while guiding)
  77. Indicate Stairs/Steps (while guiding)
  78. Interrupt Dissociation
  79. Interrupt Freezing Behavior
  80. Interrupt Harmful Behaviors
  81. Interrupt Panic/Anxiety Attack
  82. Interrupt Repetitive Behaviors
  83. Interrupt Scratching/Skin Picking
  84. Lead Around Ground Hazards (while guiding)
  85. Lead Around Low Hanging Items (while guiding)
  86. Lead Around Stationary Items (while guiding)
  87. Lick Face/Hands
  88. Low Blood Sugar Alert
  89. Medication Reminders
  90. Nightmare Interruption
  91. Open Sliding Door
  92. Open/Close Cabinet/Drawer
  93. Open/Close Dishwasher
  94. Open/Close Refrigerator
  95. Open/Close Bathroom Door
  96. Open Doors (handicapped button)
  97. Open Doors (pulling open using a tug)
  98. Open Doors (pushing open with nose or paws)
  99. Panic/Anxiety Alert
  100. Paws Up to Help With Putting on Dog Gear
  101. Provide Distraction
  102. Provide Excuse to Leave Uncomfortable Situation
  103. Provide Momentum Up Inclines
  104. Provide Momentum Up Stairs
  105. Provide Pressure on Chest to Produce Cough
  106. Pull Handler with Strap (to change positions)
  107. Pull and Hold Heavy Door
  108. Pull Blankets Off/On
  109. Pull Blinds/Curtains Closed/Open
  110. Push Floor Button to Turn on Lamp
  111. Push Paralyzed Limb Back into Place
  112. Refuse to Move Forward if Not Safe
  113. Remove Socks or Other Clothing
  114. Respond to Anxious Behaviors
  115. Retrieve Clothing Items (teach your dog to retrieve)
  116. Retrieve Dog Bowls
  117. Retrieve Dropped Items
  118. Retrieve Emergency Medication
  119. Retrieve Items When Pointed To
  120. Retrieve Juice/Gatorade/Etc
  121. Retrieve Mobility Aid (Wheelchair, Cane, Walker, etc)
  122. Retrieve Named Items
  123. Retrieve Phone
  124. Retrieve Purse/Wallet
  125. Retrieve Shoes
  126. Retrieve Tissue (when crying, sneezing, coughing)
  127. Retrieve Towel (after shower, bath)
  128. Retrieve TV Remote
  129. Retrieve Vest/Harness/Leash/Gear
  130. Retrieve Water to Take Medication
  131. Retrieve Item from Store Shelf
  132. Retrieve Mail or Newspaper
  133. Roll Handler Onto Their Side (by nudging, pulling clothing)
  134. Routine Reminders (feed dog, eat meals, go to sleep, etc)
  135. Tactile Stimulation
  136. Throw Away Trash
  137. Turn Off Lights (with paw, nose or teeth)
  138. Turn On Lights (with paw, nose or teeth)
  139. Unload Grocery Items
  140. Unload Items From the Washer or Dryer
  141. Wake Handler
  142. Watch My Back
  143. Wheelchair Pulling

Have a Task that we’ve forgotten? Let us know so we can add it to the list!

Service Dog Society

The Service Dog Society is dedicated to the education, training and support of service dog handlers, their friends and family, service dog trainers and programs, puppy raisers, businesses, the general public, and anybody else who has questions about these marvelous helpers.

Our goal is to provide as much information as possible, in a centralized location and in an easy-to-follow format. We know first hand how overwhelming the process of getting and/or training a service dog can be, for everyone involved! Our hope is to alleviate some of the confusion and difficulty that is a part of the process.