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PDPM > About Service Dogs > Understanding The Differences Between Tasks and Work...

Understanding The Differences Between Tasks and Work

This is what the Americans with Disabilities Act tells us about tasks and work:
“Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability...”

What are the differences between tasks and work?


It’s much easier to grasp the concept of tasks. Tasks are essentially any behaviors that a dog is trained to perform, on cue, and in a manner that can be clearly observed. While this may vary, they can take up a much shorter period of time than work does. A task tends to be an “in the moment,” behavior. A few example of tasks are:


Work is a slightly more abstract concept. In short, work is something a dog does that is not necessarily visible and tends to be performed on an ongoing basis. It is not typically something that can be performed on cue, but some work can be. Another characteristic of work may involve an extended chain of multiple behaviors. An example of this would be guiding. Guiding entails many different behaviors that amount to keeping the blind handler safe. Some of these behaviors are performed on cue, but the dog must be actively doing his own work, throughout the time.

Max performs work, by assisting his handler after a crisis.

To understand the concept of work, think about dogs whose jobs involve medical alert (not just response). The dog always maintains an awareness of his handler’s condition, so that he can alert the handler to a potential medical crisis before it happens. Some more examples of work are:

Here are some acronyms for remembering “task” and “work.” (Apologies for substituting the hard “C” for the “K” sound):

Taking Trained
Action Active
Someone Skill
Knows K(currently)

Without Will
Otherwise Offer
Receiving Rescue
K(cue) K(continuously)

Here is a great example of a service dog who performs a combination of tasks and work.

In this photo, Jay performs work, by providing mobility assistance for his handler, after she experienced a seizure.

In this photo, Jay is shown performing a task, by holding the door open for his handler.

The Please Don't Pet Me footer, multiple service dogs .