Work & Tasks

Closeup of a small hand holding the handle on the back of a large dog's vest. The orange vest has a large patch that says "SERVICE DOG IN TRAINING".

The possibilities of what a service dog can be trained to do are as unlimited as the ways disabilities can be helped!

Want to know more about service dog tasks—how to define them, how to train them, and examples? Confused as to why some people forget about the work service dogs can do, or why old service dog tasks vs. work distinctions don’t make sense?

PSDP authoritatively addresses these issues and provides a bonus collection of community members’ work and task stories, complete with pictures and video. Dive in with the links below, or dip your intellectual toe in first with the text below the links.


Work and task list


How to train a service dog anxiety alert/response


Service dog work and tasks: A cue-based analysis


Work and task stories


How many tasks are required?


A service dog may provide many different trained behaviors to help a person with a disability. These may be divided into passively-available work or actively-requested tasks.

Service dog tasks are on-demand services that are requested by the handler each time. It is often obvious when a task is being carried out, such as when a handler asks a service dog to retrieve a dropped leash that the handler cannot reach.

Service dog work is not requested by the handler, but the dog is on-call to provide the specific help when cued by a change in the handler or the handler’s environment. Examples of work include a psychiatric service dog alerting its handler to an impending panic attack, and a guide dog working to direct its handler around a novel obstacle.


About our service dog tasks and work resources…

Our primary resource on psychiatric service dog tasks and work is our Work and Task List. This work and task list contains a community-driven collection of psychiatric symptoms, assistive behaviors for each psychiatric symptom, and whether the assistance behaviors are service dog work, service dog tasks, or could be either.

PSDP’s Dr. Morris provides a how-to pattern for training most any kind of medical alert/response in “How to train a service dog anxiety alert/response“.

For those who want to better understand the distinction between service dog tasks and work, or why it’s not true that service dogs have to be task-trained to do three service dog tasks, we have everything you could hope for!

In “Service Dog Work and Tasks: A Cue-Based Analysis“, you get the simplest version of the work vs. tasks issue. At the top of that page, you’ll also find links to our older articles that take on related issues and provide the background for our definitive service dog tasks vs. work distinction. We give you the rundown on what the law says in “How Many Tasks are Required?

As always, one of our best resources for helping you learn about and train service dog tasks and work is the Peer Guidance Group (listserv). Experienced peers in our community love to help others learn on the listserv!