Dogs provide dedicated help for people to accomplish tasks that would otherwise be difficult or impossible for them to do independently. These types of dogs are not considered pets, but working animals. In fact, legislation passed the Americans with Disabilities Act so service animals would be exempt from rules prohibiting animals from businesses and public places.
One of the most common service animals is the guide dog. They help people who are visually impaired to move around safely. Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, and Labrador-golden retrievers are the most common breed for guide dogs. They have calm temperaments, intelligence, and a natural desire to be helpful. As puppies, they spend their first year with a foster family who socializes them and prepares them for later training by teaching them basic obedience skills. At around 18 months, guide dogs enter a more formal training for three to five months. They learn to stop at curbs, adjust to a harness, and more. Once their training is complete, each dog is paired with their human companion who matches best with them.
Another common type of service dog is a hearing dog. The dogs that are used for this are usually mixed-breed rescues from shelters. They are trained to alert their human companion to ordinary sounds such as a baby’s cry, a telephone, or an alarm clock. The dog alerts their companion by touching them with a paw and leading them to the sound source. They are also trained to recognize dangers such as the sound of an intruder and fire alarms. In these instances, the dog will touch their companion with their paw and then lay down in a particular alert posture. Hence, the person knows they need to take appropriate action.
Dogs aren’t limited to helping people physically. They can also help improve people’s mental well-being. For example, they can help children and adults with autism calm down in moments of anxiety. Hugging, petting, or having the dog put pressure with their paw on the person can create a calming effect for anxiety or depression by reducing tension and improving the person’s mood. These dogs have been found to lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, and train to disrupt harmful behavior.
Dogs have an essential job when it comes to helping people with disabilities. Many organizations help train and pair dogs with the most compatible person based on their needs. These dogs help their human companion live their lives to the fullest.