Maybe this piece should be preceded by a Health Warning. Not your health you understand but that of your dog, particularly his mental health. It would be best not to let your dog see you reading this as it could lead to his feeling inadequate and that would be most unfair. Just as we cannot expect every human being to be a highly trained mountain rescue or lifeboat paramedic, we can’t expect every dog to be a highly trained assistance dog. Your dog already has a job, as your friend and companion, and he does it very well. That’s all you ask of him, or her of course.
When we started looking into the subject of assistance dogs we started with a brief account of the assistance dog that is best known to most people, the guide dog, sometimes known as "the seeing eye dog". Mention "Assistance Dogs," to the majority of folk and they will immediately think of Guide Dogs for the Blind. That’s not unreasonable, guide dogs were the first dogs to be used to assist humans with problems and they still have the highest profile in the Assistance Dog world.
However, following on from the success of guide dogs, a combination of human ingenuity and canine versatility has resulted in dogs of various breeds being trained to play an amazing variety of roles to assist people with all kinds of disabilities to live as near normal a life as possible. You get some idea of this variety when you look at Assistance Dogs UK. That is a coalition of assistance dog charities. There are six of them supporting different assistance roles for dogs. They are:
Guide Dogs , the sighted companions for blind people
Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, they react to sounds and alert their deaf friends
Dogs for the Disabled, who answer the door, fetch and carry, pick up dropped objects and many other tasks
Canine Partners, Help for disabled people again, dogs can unload washing machines, help with getting dressed, press buttons and switches.
Support Dogs, medical support dogs alert humans to oncoming seizures in cases of epilepsy, diabetes, etc. among other tasks.
* Dog A.I.D, Dog Assistance In Disability, who train disabled people to use assistance dogs and even to train pet dogs they already have to be support dogs.
When you consider that a dog’s paw has no fingers with opposable thumbs like a human hand, it really is amazing that a dog can operate switches, open and close doors to rooms, cupboards etc. Then consider the uncanny ability to detect an incipient hypo in a person with diabetes and warn the person before he or she is even aware of it or detect an epileptic seizure before it happens and again warn the sufferer and you have a creature with seemingly supernatural powers. Yet it is just a humble dog! How little do most of us humans really understand?
Of course the people who do really know about these things, the trainers of both dogs and people and the breeders, of dogs that is, will tell you it is all a matter of careful training having selected the right breed for the task and no doubt they are right. But most dogs do seem to have a natural, instinctive, desire to please and surely that must have something to do with it.
What this does tell you is that like so many worthwhile services, all assistance dog training and provision is done by charities with little or no Government support. Each of the organisations we’ve mentioned is a registered charity dependent for funding on public support. Makes you think doesn’t it?
Content provided by Pete Hopper, Freelance content writer of Write For You.
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|Sunday, September 26. 2021|