Assistance (Service) Dogs
Assistance Dogs assist people with disabilities other than vision or hearing impairment. With special training these dogs can help mitigate many different types of disabilities. They can be trained to work with people who use power or manual wheelchairs, have balance issues, have various types of autism, need seizure alert or response, need to be alerted to other medical issues like low blood sugar, or have psychiatric disabilities. These specially trained dogs can help by retrieving objects that are out of their person’s reach, by pulling wheelchairs, opening and closing doors, turning light switches off and on, barking to indicate that help is needed, finding another person and leading the person to the handler, assisting ambulatory persons to walk by providing balance and counterbalance, providing deep pressure, and many other individual tasks as needed by a person with a disability. Assistance Dogs are either rescued from animal shelters or bred in selective breeding programs and raised by volunteers prior to their formal training. Most assistance Dogs are Golden Retrievers or Labrador Retrievers. Service Dogs can be identified by either a backpack, harness or jacket.
Autism Assistance Dogs
An autism assistance dog gives the parent and child real independence, and provides a safer environment for the child so they feel more secure.
Having unlimited access to public places with the dog enables the whole family to do simple things such as shopping, which may have been impossible before.
The dog wears a special harness which connects it to both parent and child, and acts on instructions from the parent while the child is encouraged to walk alongside the dog.
This offers greater independence to the child and parent, whilst ensuring the child is safe and unable to ‘bolt’ if they become stressed or anxious. ‘Bolting’ behaviour is also combated by training the assistance dog to automatically sit should the child attempt to run off.
Information from Dogs for Good UK
Guide Dogs assist blind and visually impaired people by avoiding obstacles, stopping at curbs and steps, and negotiating traffic. The harness and U-shaped handle fosters communication between the dog and the blind partner. In this partnership, the human’s role is to provide directional commands, while the dog’s role is to insure the team’s safety even if this requires disobeying an unsafe command.
Hearing Dogs assist deaf or hearing impaired individuals by alerting them to a variety of household sounds such as a door knock or doorbell, alarm clock, oven buzzer, telephone, baby cry, name call or smoke alarm. Dogs are trained to make physical contact and lead their deaf partners to the source of the sound.
Hearing Dogs are generally mixed breeds acquired from animal shelters and are small to medium in size. Prior to formal audio response training, the younger adoptees are raised and socialized by volunteer puppy raisers.
Medical Alert Assistance Dogs
Medical Alert Assistance Dogs are trained to help people with life-threatening health conditions, giving them greater independence and above all saving their lives on a daily basis.
The dogs are trained to assist individuals who manage complex health conditions. They are taught to identify the odour changes that are associated with life-threatening medical events. Currently the majority of Medical Alert Assistance Dogs work with people with diabetes. However, we also provide alert dogs for those with other very dangerous health conditions including Addisonian crisis, which causes severe pain, convulsions and unconsciousness which lead to collapse and hospitalisation; and severe allergic responses. We continue to investigate other debilitating and potentially fatal conditions which our dogs may have the ability to help.
Information from Medical Alert Assistance Dogs UK.