Assistance dogs (also known as support dogs, aide dogs or service dogs) do exactly what is says on the tin! They assist people in everyday life where they are unable to do everything needed for themselves. This can be in a wide range of services such as hearing dogs, assisting physically disabled people, assisting the blind or partially sighted and therapy dogs, to name just a few.
Assistance Dog Breeds
Many different breeds make up assistance dogs, but the most commonly known or referred to, is the Labrador or Golden Retriever who are the main breed used as service dogs (those helping disabled people). This breed is not only highly intelligent and easy to train, but they are not overly protective. This is an important factor when choosing and training a service dog as the focus should be on the dog assisting and not protecting its owner. It is also difficult for some disabilities to enable a person to physically restrain a dog if it becomes protective and most dogs are with their all of the time and find themselves in public places and areas where many people may gather, meaning they need to be calm and not easily panicked.
The work carried out by all service dogs is awe inspiring and it is not just a case of the dog helping their owner (which given that they are an animal and they don’t understand actual word, is impressive in itself.) The aid that assistance dogs give to their owners is too vast to list, but just a few helpful and amazing examples are given below:-
- Retrieving a ringing phone for deaf owners
- Helping owner to cross the road
- Turning on light switches
- Opening dustbins
- Closing/Opening doors
- Picking up dropped objects
- Sensing drops in blood sugar in diabetics
- Warning of dangers (fire alarms, intruders etc)
Assistance Dog Organisations
There are so many organisations across the globe who work in the industry of assistance dogs and in so many different capacities such as training, providing, funding, re-homing and making equipment and each and every one of them adds to the lives of the people that these service dogs assist. We have listed just a small percentage of these organisations below so that you can see for yourself the fabulous work that they contribute, and if you do a quick search engine lookup you will find many more.
Links to Organisations
Training Assistance Dogs
There are many organisations and individuals who train assistance dogs to be the perfect companion dog. It takes skill, dedication and patience, from both the trainer and the dog and training durations do depend on the breed and type of service the dog will be providing. A well trained service dog can spend 2-3 hours a day training for up to 6 months, but the dogs really enjoy the training experience and form a unique bond during this time. For some types of assistance needs, the dog will also be co-trained by the intended owner to help that bond to form as early as possible.
We Should Be Grateful To Our Canine Friends
The work that both the assistance dogs and foundations do in the communities across the world are invaluable and enable hundreds of thousands of people to lead normal lives and many disabled people get to live in their own homes with the hep of their companion dogs and are given back their freedom and independence because of their canine helpers.
It is not just those who use and needs service dogs who should be grateful to them, each and every one of us could be in the position of needing an assistance dog with the slightest twist of fate and once again the loyalty and devotion that our four legged friends show to their human counterparts is awe inspiring and heart-warming.